State News Roundup

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This week, a rural school district in Wyoming will return to a five-day schedule because the state's Supreme Court has declared its one-year-old experiment with a four-day week to be illegal.

As a result of the ruling, the Sheridan County District One in Ranchester will lose state funds for its education programs, proportionate to the number of days it is short of the minimum state requirement of 175 days of instruction.

The school year ends on May 27 and the district could lose $8,000 to $9,000 per day for each of the 21 days it will be short, according to Dennis J. Kane, a spokesman for the state department of education.

The four-day plan was approved by the state board of education (with the concurrence of the state attorney general) last June. It was part of a pilot program that allowed some rural districts to stay open on fewer days, provided they operated for the same number of hours as they did when they were open 175 days a year, Mr. Kane said.

The state supreme court ruled that a day "commences in the A.M. and ends in the P.M." within a 24-hour period and could not be considered as a sum total of hours counted over several days.

The North Carolina Senate last week was scheduled to consider a bill passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives that would require teachers and education-school faculty members to switch places once a year.

The bill, sponsored by Represen-tative Howard B. Chapin, passed by 106-to-2 in the House earlier this month.

Mr. Chapin, a public-school teacher for 34 years, said the bill was designed to force university faculty members regularly to "get out of the ivory tower" to see how their ideas work in elementary and secondary schools.

Under a pilot program, teachers and professors would switch places for two weeks during the 1983-84 school year.

Mr. Chapin said that the state's 16 state colleges and 29 private colleges would be required to choose at least one faculty member to take part in the project. He said he hopes that three members from each college would take part.

"I just felt that college professors hadn't been in the public schools and that they were teaching theory that wasn't practical," Mr. Chapin said. "They ought to demonstrate the power of their methods in the real world."

Teachers involved in the pilot project would report their findings to the state's joint legislative commission on government operations.

A referendum asking for a freeze on nuclear arms was approved by an overwhelming majority of more than 7,000 Vermont students earlier this month.

The number of students endorsing the freeze was 5,145; those voting against the freeze totaled 1,943, according to David McCauley, field secretary for the Vermont chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, which sponsored the event, along with the University of Vermont Center for World Education.

The vote, which was taken by 7,088 students at 30 schools throughout the state, followed a series of activities centered on nuclear-arms control.

"There was a good-faith effort to make resources [from both sides of the debate] available," Mr. McCauley said. "We wanted to show the Administration that this is an issue that high-school students should and can get involved in," he added.

Mr. McCauley said the state Congressional delegation has agreed to meet with students and teachers from the school and to participate in a discussion on how the Congress is addressing the issue.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit late last month refused to award $32,000 in legal fees to parents of a handicapped child who won a court case against a Rhode Island school district.

In Smith v. Cumberland School Committee, Circuit Judge Levin Campbell refused to require the district to pay the legal fees incurred by the parents of Thomas Smith III, because, the judge said, they had won the case under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which does not call for the reimbursement of legal fees.

(Lawyers say they generally ask for fees under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and not the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.)

Judge Campbell asserted that it was the intent of Congress, in its careful wording of the law under which the Smith case was argued, to leave out legal fees so that states and districts with limited school funds would not be unduly burdened by such suits.

According to Forrest L. Avilla, legal counsel to the commissioner of education in Rhode Island, the judge's decision was welcome news. He agreed that school committees and state departments of education do not have the resources to act as the "third-party payer" for litigation.

But George Prescott, the attorney for the parents, said he feared the decision would cause attorneys and parents to hesitate to file suit under the handicapped-education law.

The Smith case began in 1976 when the Cumberland School Committee announced it would no longer pay private-school tuition for the Smith child, who has cerebral palsy and is emotionally disturbed. The school committee claimed it was the responsibility of the state department of mental health to finance the child's education.

The Wallingford, Conn., school board has been ordered to pay more than $7,700 in lost wages to a female physical-education teacher who was denied a position as the coach of the boys' track and field team.

In a decision announced this month, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities found that Sharyn D'Urso was more qualified than the man selected to coach the Lyman Hall High School team and that there was "reasonable cause" for the sex-discrimination complaint.

The commission received Ms. D'Urso's complaint in 1977, according to Thomas P. Clifford, assistant state attorney general.

In addition to paying the money, the district was ordered to discontinue its discriminatory practices and to maintain personnel records for at least one year, Mr. Clifford said. The district had destroyed its records pertaining to the D'Urso case, he said.

School districts in California, where university officials have expressed concern about students' preparation for college, will receive a set of guidelines this month designed to provide a "clear and precise expression of the fundamental English and mathematics competencies needed by any person planning to enter college."

The guidelines, called the "Statement of Competencies in English and Mathematics Expected of Entering Freshmen," were issued this month by the California Round Table on Educational Opportunity. The group is an alliance of the chief executive officers of public colleges and universities in the state and other educators, including the chief state school officer. The development of its guidelines document was supported by the Atlantic Richfield Foundation and others.

The recommended courses include at least four years of English and a minimum of three years of mathematics. Students should take both disciplines during their senior year as well, according to the guidelines. Schools should administer diagnostic tests in mathematics and English during students' junior year, and use the results to guide them in their senior course selection.

Early counseling is also important, the guidelines say. Not only will it help to guide students and their parents, it will also broaden their career choices. Especially critical is the counseling of groups that are now underrepresented in California colleges and universities.

The group also cautions against relying on measures other than achievement to determine grades. "At all levels of education, from elementary school through college, grades in English and mathematics should be based upon achievement rather than upon effort or attendance so that students will receive accurate assessment of their competencies."

The Vermont legislature has approved a measure, which Gov. Richard A. Snelling is expected to sign, requiring alcohol- and drug-abuse education in elementary and secondary schools by 1986.

The measure authorizes the department of education to develop a curriculum for use in elementary and secondary schools, to establish teacher-training programs on the subjects, and to provide technical assistance to local school systems in implementing their programs, according to Mary Ann Luciano, director of intergovernmental affairs for the department of education.

In addition, according to Ms. Luciano, the measure requires that driver-education courses include information on alcohol and drug abuse. And it mandates the creation of a state council on alcohol and drug abuse.

Ms. Luciano said the Governor vetoed a bill last week that would have raised the state's drinking age from 18 to 19. She said the Governor favors the alcohol- and drug-abuse program as a more effective means of addressing the problem.

Vol. 02, Issue 31

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