News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

December 03, 2003 4 min read
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Colo. Officials Mull Need for 12th Grade

A pair of Colorado state senators say it’s time to reconsider one of the staples of American schooling.

David T. Owen and Ronald J. Teck have asked the Colorado Department of Education to study the possibility of reorganizing or eliminating 12th grade, and instead providing state money for a year of preschool.

The two Republicans offered the idea at a joint budget committee meeting late last month.

Both lawmakers say they’ve seen little improvement in education over the past decade. Moreover, they argue, many seniors take few critical courses and spend much of the year working at jobs instead of preparing for college. It’s also a year in which students often drop out.

Colorado has one of the nation’s highest dropout rates and spends nearly $21 million on remedial training for college students, the senators say. Those factors, combined with studies that show that early intervention helps children succeed later in life, are powerful arguments for exploring a new approach, they add.

Kathy Christie, the vice president of the clearinghouse for the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, said that while the issue merits study, she doubts any move to scrap 12th grade will get very far. “There will be significant debate over whether this is a good idea,” she said.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Secretary as Board President? California’s Riordan Eyes Idea

Newly appointed California Secretary of Education Richard J. Riordan has inquired whether he could also serve as the president of the state board of education.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was sworn in Nov. 17, must appoint seven members of the 11-member board in the coming months, including the board’s president. The term of the current president, Reed Hastings, will expire Jan. 15. It is doubtful that Mr. Hastings, a Democrat who supported former Gov. Gray Davis, will be reappointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Namhee Han, an aide to Mr. Riordan, said that Mr. Riordan, who was named to the education secretary’s post by Mr. Schwarzenegger, was still formulating his role within the new administration.

Toward that end, Ms. Han said, Secretary Riordan had merely inquired whether it would help streamline California’s complicated system of education governance to have the secretary double as board president.

It was not clear last week whether Mr. Riordan, who is well-known as a former mayor of Los Angeles and a 2002 GOP gubernatorial candidate, could legally hold both jobs.

—Joetta L. Sack

Iowa Considers Higher Bar For Its School Athletes

The Iowa state board of education appears poised to require student athletes to earn higher grades or pass more courses to compete.

Currently, the state mandates that students pass four classes with at least a D-minus. The board discussed raising the grade requirement at its Nov. 19 meeting, and it could ask for a specific proposal in January.

The board also had discussed raising the bar for athletes last year, but instead asked school districts to boost the academic standards required for athletes to play. An Iowa Department of Education survey of private and public school districts and schools found that few followed the board’s suggestion, however.

Moreover, the survey results suggest that the state board’s proposal will face stiff opposition from districts. The survey found that 82 percent of the respondents who made comments about the proposed rule change favored letting local districts decide what the academic requirements for athletes should be.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Arizona Panel Recommends Early-Childhood Changes

A group of Arizona political, education, health, and business leaders has handed Gov. Janet Napolitano a plan for early-childhood education that some education experts say could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The panel, created by an executive order issued by the first-year Democratic governor, recommends that the state improve education for its youngest children through parent education programs, health checkups for children, a rating system for early-education and child- care settings, and full-day kindergarten.

Gov. Napolitano agrees in concept with the recommendations, but must decide what improvements can be made now at minimal cost, and which ones will have to wait until the state pulls out of its current financial difficulties, said Paul Allvin, a spokesman for the governor. Arizona started the fiscal year with a $1 billion deficit out of a $7 billion budget.

Mr. Allvin said the state might begin by looking for ways to streamline and improve the array of services it already offers.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

California Charter Profile Raised in State Agency

Charter schools are gaining stature within the California Department of Education.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell named a prominent charter school leader, Marta Reyes, as the director of a new charter school division within the state agency late last month.

In that post, Ms. Reyes will be part of the elected state superintendent’s executive team.

“Marta will work to encourage the sharing of best practices and to use that information to ensure all charter schools are successful in helping to raise student achievement,” Mr. O’Connell said in a statement.

California has about 480 of the largely independent public schools, serving some 170,000 students.

Ms. Reyes founded and operated three charter schools and served as the president of the board of directors of the former California Network of Educational Charters.

— Robert C. Johnston


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