News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

October 16, 2002 3 min read
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Kentucky’s New Tests Meet Federal Law

Kentucky will revise its testing system to comply with the new federal education law.

The Kentucky state board of education voted unanimously on Oct. 2 to add reading and mathematics tests at several new grade levels so that it can measure student progress in grades 3-8.

Currently, the state has tests that are based on its standards for reading in grades 4, 6, and 9 and on its math standards in grades 5 and 8. Starting in the 2004-05 school year, the state will fill in the missing grades that the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 requires it to assess.

The new tests will be norm-referenced, but will include additional items that match state standards, according to Lisa Y. Gross, the press secretary for the state department of education.

She said the tests would cost $4 million to develop and would eventually add about 90 minutes of testing time during the typical student’s year.

—David J. Hoff

Massachusetts Think Tank Adds Education Center

A Massachusetts think tank has added a new center under its banner with the goal, organizers say, of providing more objective analysis of the state’s education policies.

The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, a nonpartisan research organization that examines economic and civic issues, announced the opening of the Center for Education Research and Policy the beginning of this month.

S. Paul Reville, a Harvard University professor of education who helped shape Massachusetts’ 1993 education reform law, is the executive director of the Boston-based center. Mr. Reville is also the executive director of the Pew Forum on Standards-Based Reform, located at Harvard.

The new center will produce academic research, opinion polls, and discussions on a range of education issues. Topics to be explored include developing post-high school pathways for seniors who fail the state’s high- stakes exams, school and district accountability, and ways of improving teacher quality.

—John Gehring

Virginia Sees Steady Rise In Student Test Scores

Schools in Virginia were given a reason to celebrate last week with news of higher passing rates on the state’s controversial Standards of Learning exams.

Continuing a five-year trend, Virginia students improved over their scores from the previous year on 23 of the 28 SOL tests given in elementary, middle, and high school in English, mathematics, science, and history/social studies.

When the tests were first administered in the 1997-98 school year, the statewide passing rate surpassed 70 percent on just five of the 27 exams given. Those results sparked concern about the exams.

The passing rates on the tests given during the 2001-02 school year, however, were 70 percent or higher on all but one of the 28 tests given.

At the high school level, students posted 86 percent passing rates on the reading and writing tests that, beginning with the class of 2004, will be required for graduation.

“These results show that all our students are rising to the challenge of the commonwealth’s new graduation standards,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynn DeMary.

—Robert C. Johnston

Appellate Court Upholds California Bilingual Law

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that an anti-bilingual-education initiative approved by California voters in 1998 doesn’t violate the U.S. constitution.

The initiative, Proposition 227, sought to replace most bilingual education programs in the state with English-immersion programs.

Plaintiffs in the appeal filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had argued that Proposition 227 illegally restructured the political process by putting the decisionmaking power over bilingual education, and bilingual education alone, at the state level. Thus, they said, the initiative violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

But the appeals court, in a 3-0 ruling by a three-judge panel on Oct. 7, said that “reallocation of political decisionmaking violates equal protection only when there is evidence of purposeful racial discrimination.”

The court said it didn’t find such evidence, even though the initiative contained “an undeniable racial dimension,” and thus it upheld Proposition 227.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, along with a number of other civil rights groups, represented the students and parents who brought the challenge to Proposition 227.

MALDEF is considering asking for the appeal to be reheard by an 11-judge panel, said Thomas A. Saenz, the MALDEF lawyer who argued the case.

—Mary Ann Zehr


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