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Joining two other northern California school boards, the San Francisco Board of Education voted last week to reject the chapter of a federal curriculum that tells students how to respond to the "emergency" of nuclear attack.

With only one dissenting vote, the seven-member board voted not to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency's chapter on survival after a nuclear attack because it implies that nuclear war is less destructive than the board views it to be. The chapter is included in a recommended curriculum on emergency and disaster planning.

The degree of destruction wrought by nuclear war, the board's resolution said, must not be classified with that of earthquakes, radiation spills, and the like. "[T]o place nuclear war among survivable disasters is to imply that it is survivable," the resolution said. The board urged the federal agency to delete that chapter from the curriculum.

Earlier, school boards in Oakland and Berkeley also voted not to use the chapter in their schools.

Administrators of the District of Columbia's public schools have proposed that the city's school board end its three-year-old "promotion-gates" policy, under which students in the 1st through 6th grades have had to master specific mathematics and reading skills before being promoted into the second half of each grade.

The city's school officials believe the program is administratively cumbersome, unfairly stigmatizes those students who are consistently left back, and also lacks the funding necessary to effectively address the educational needs of such persistent repeaters, according to James T. Guines, associate superintendent. Mr. Guines noted that the school system has some 14-year-olds in the 3rd grade.

Mr. Guines said the school board is being asked to retain the program's competency-based instructional and assessment elements, but to shift promotion decisions to an annual schedule.

The promotion-gates program was implemented in the fall of 1980 in response to public criticism of the district's "social-promotion" policy, which allowed students to graduate from one grade to the next without regard to what they had learned.

The gates program requires that each student master 70 percent of a series of mathematics or reading competencies before advancing to the next rung on the 12-step ladder. Those who fail one subject receive remedial instruction through a variety of programs; those who fail both subjects also receive extra help, but are not allowed to advance.

This year, for the first time, those who fail to make it through the system's "gates" will attend mandatory summer school.

The District of Columbia is reported to be the only school system in the county that makes promotion decisions twice a year.

Vol. 02, Issue 36

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