News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

May 22, 2002 5 min read
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Georgia State Board Adopts New Test Policy for Schools

The state test scores of limited-English-proficient students in Georgia’s K-12 public schools will not be counted toward the accountability grades that schools receive from the state until the students have been in the United States for at least two years, under a new policy adopted by the state board of education.

During their first year in the country, the students will be tested only if school officials recommend that they should be, and even then, their scores will be used only for baseline information.

During their second year, test scores will be figured into their schools’ grades only if they have attended the same school for the entire academic year.

School administrators in Georgia—particularly in the growing metropolitan Atlanta area—say high student- mobility rates often are a factor in low-test scores.

In the third year, the students will be tested, and the scores will be part of their grades.

The new policy, which has been welcomed by school officials throughout the state, was recommended by the state’s Office of Education Accountability, the agency charged with implementing Georgia’s accountability system for students and schools.

—Linda Jacobson

Mass. Can Order Tests, Court Rules

Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled that math teachers can be required to take competency exams when a high percentage of their students fail state assessments in the subject.

A regulation approved by the state board of education two years ago required testing of mathematics teachers at middle and high schools where more than 30 percent of students failed the math section of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

The Massachusetts Federation of Teachers and the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association argued that the state board had exceeded its statutory authority and violated local collective bargaining agreements by requiring the tests. The unions’ arguments were rejected May 9 by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

“Contrary to the teachers’ arguments, we conclude that there is no conflict between the challenged regulations, which govern state teacher rectification, and collective bargaining law, which governs specific terms and conditions of employment,” wrote Justice Francis Spin.

—John Gehring

University of Texas Bolsters K-12 Aid

The board of regents of the University of Texas System has approved plans to expand its programs that help teachers and students in the state’s public schools.

The new initiative, called “Every Child, Every Advantage,” will include additional professional-development opportunities for teachers, new programs for teacher education, and improved instructional programs for elementary and secondary schools.

The 30-year plan includes an expansion of a program at the University of Texas at Austin for preparing secondary school math and science teachers, and establishing a new math education research center, and expanding online professional development for teachers.

Funding for the initiative will come from federal aid tied to the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, which will be funneled through the state government, said Michael L. Warden, the executive director of pubic affairs for the university system. All the new programs will build on existing K-16 initiatives at some of the university system’s 15 campuses.

—Michelle Galley

Mich. Court Rebuffs Suit on Spending

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that the level of school funding from the state passes constitutional muster, putting on hold educators’ hopes for millions of dollars more to help pay for special education programs.

The May 13 ruling is the latest in a school funding dispute that stretches back more than 20 years to the state’s Headlee Amendment, which requires the state to pay for the programs it mandates. The more than 400 districts that sued the state two years ago, in a case known as Durant III, want money to cover the costs of special education services above their per-pupil allotments.

In its 3-0 decision against the districts, the three-judge panel of the court reasoned that increases in per-pupil funding provided by the state in recent years have met the constitutional requirement. Much of the increased spending followed a 1997 ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in the original Durant v. Michigan lawsuit.

Dennis Pollard, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the districts would appeal this month’s ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The ruling came a week after the appellate court rebuffed a suit by many of the same districts seeking more money under the Headlee Amendment. In that case, the court held that the plaintiffs’ arguments belonged in the original Durant case.

—Bess Keller

Del. Sports Board to Be Revamped

A Delaware panel overseeing school athletics is on track to be revamped, following a vote by lawmakers May 9.

Starting in June of next year, the makeup of the Delaware Secondary School Athletic Association will be changed, and the committee will become a unit of the Delaware Department of Education, said the state’s deputy education secretary, Jennifer Davis.

Last May, the state’s joint sunset committee began a review of the panel’s operations and issued 13 recommendations for its improvement. The suggestions included adding more members of the public to the panel and making the financial and organizational structure clearer. The recommendations will be incorporated into the reformed panel, Ms. Davis said.

Lawmakers on the sunset committee, who voted 6-1 this month to scrap the existing governing body, which oversees public and some private school athletics, said they felt the association was not implementing recommendations fast enough. Some legislators also had concerns that it is not sufficiently open, Ms. Davis added.

But Ms. Davis said the reform plan and the establishment of a new structure by next year have been accepted by the association’s board members and by lawmakers. “I don’t believe the sunset committee recommendations are perceived as contentious,” she said.

The sunset committee will meet again May 28 to draft legislation to implement the new recommendations.

—Michelle R. Davis

A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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