News in Brief

October 21, 1992 2 min read

Commissioner of Education Vincent L. Ferrandino of Connecticut has proposed allowing parents to choose the public schools their children attend as a way to promote racial diversity.

In a draft plan presented to the state board of education this month, Mr. Ferrandino also suggested using school-construction and transportation-grant incentives to better integrate Connecticut schools.

In addition to proposing ways to improve equity and access, Mr. Ferrandino recommended overhauling student testing, teacher training, and preschool programs. Though specific ways to implement the plans were not addressed, he stressed the need to use troubled urban school districts as a testing ground for the more ambitious reforms.

The focus on urban schools and school choice has been sharpened by the upcoming trial for Sheff v. O’Neill, a lawsuit filed in 1989 by civil-rights groups and Hartford students.

The groups claim that the isolation of minorities and low-income children in inner-city schools violates the state constitution’s guarantee of equal education.

The suit is set to go to trial Nov. 17, according to Mark Stapleton, a lawyer for the state board.

Gov. James J. Florio of New Jersey has expressed tentative support for the concept of charter schools.

In remarks before the state board of education this month, Mr. Florio said he was intrigued by the idea of authorizing parents and teachers to establish publicly funded schools, as Minnesota and California have done.

The Governor said he thought charter schools would be worth exploring in New Jersey.

But Mr. Florio did not endorse a charter-schools bill that has been introduced in both chambers of the legislature by bipartisan leaders.

A charter-schools bill is likely to face opposition from the powerful New Jersey Education Association.

“We’re gravely concerned about the potential for economic and racial divisiveness,’' said Lynn Maher, a spokeswoman for the teachers’ union. “We question the appropriateness of parents and teachers running the schools alone. The public has a big stake in public education.’'

Responding to sharp criticisms from the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Maryland education department has unveiled changes in the state’s new student-assessment program.

The Maryland State Teachers Association last spring attacked the program for containing questions that union officials said were offensive, age-inappropriate, and inaccurate. (See Education Week, June 3, 1992.)

The changes announced by the department this month call for increasing communication with the M.S.T.A. and the Baltimore Teachers Union, adding teachers to the team that insures that students are tested at the appropriate age level, increasing sensitivity to controversial topics, and making testing materials available to teachers in advance.

A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 1992 edition of Education Week as News in Brief