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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has refused to review its May ruling that struck down two Alabama laws that permitted prayer in the state's public schools.

The laws had been challenged by Ishmael Jaffree, a Mobile attorney whose children attended the public schools there, where teachers led their classes in prayer. In a controversial ruling, U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand said that the laws did not violate the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs appealed that decision, however, and the prayer laws were voided.

Following the 11th Circuit's most recent ruling, officials at the Mobile County school board said that they will take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. An earlier effort to get the high court to review the case failed because the board had asked the 11th Circuit to review its ruling.

Blacks seeking teaching certificates in Florida improved their scores on the most recent administration of the state's basic-skills test, according to the state department of education. But more than half of the black candidates for certification failed the test.

Forty-six percent of the blacks who took the test in June passed it, compared to 35 percent who passed in the February administration of the four-part test. The test covers mathematics, reading, writing, and teaching skills.

A prospective teacher must provide correct answers to about 70 percent of the mathematics questions and about 80 percent of the reading questions to pass those sections. A passing score on the teaching-skills section requires candidates to answer about 50 percent of the questions correctly.

Passage of the examination has been a prerequisite for earning a teaching license in the state since 1980.

The first year-round school in Texas is now in operation. (See Education Week, April 20, 1983.) At Janowski Elementary school in northeast Houston, most children are now in their sixth week of school; they began on July 13. A smaller group began on August 10, said Rita Poimbeauf, the school's principal.

The new staggered schedule increases the capacity of the overcrowded school considerably, since about one-fourth of the students are always out on vacation. The children attend school for blocks of 59 days, separated by 20-day vacations. Nurses, librarians, physical education and music teachers teach four days each week instead of five.

"Things are working smoothly," Ms. Poimbeauf said. "The buildings are quieter. The teachers say they have less reteaching to do."

Janowski, a largely Hispanic school with more than 600 students, last year had to double up several classes in one room, and officials said restroom and other facilities were inadequate. Under the new system, no more than about 500 students are in school at the same time, Ms. Poimbeauf said.

If the pilot project at Janowski is well received, the Houston Independent School District may expand the year-round system to other overcrowded schools, the officials said.

Joining the growing number of states that have increased the number of science and mathematics courses that students must take, Delaware's state board of education voted at its July 28 meeting to increase requirements from one to two credits in each subject.

In science, students must earn one credit in the biological sciences and one in either physical or earth science, according to the new rule.

New York City's venture into all-day kindergarten programs will begin this fall, school chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado announced this month.

"Children who start their school experience early by attending all-day kindergarten do better in their school work and are less likely to be held back or to be referred for placement in special education, according to recent research studies," Mr. Alvarado said.

Registration will begin on Sept. 7 for students born in 1978 who have proof of residence and immunization against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and diptheria.

The City Council and Board of Estimate approved an allocation of $15 million for the all-day kindergarten classes when it passed the city's $16.7 billion budget this spring.

The schools of Macon County, Ala., have undergone a second state review because financial problems have again raised the possibility that the schools will close.

Wayne Teague, state superintendent of education, told the district to reduce maintenance costs by using $500,000 in state capital-outlay funds for building improvements; to keep better track of its money by adopting the state-prescribed accounting system; and to reduce the amount of general-fund revenue spent on federally supported programs such as Head Start.

Mr. Teague, who has declined requests that the state take over operation of the district, also told the board to find a permanent superintendent as soon as possible.

The system has debts of more than $400,000, and school officials say they cannot meet their payroll after Sept. 1. But if county residents approve the construction of a dog-racing track, the district could realize $2.5 million annually in new revenue, according to school officials.

Mr. Teague first sent state teams to review the district's financial condition in December, when the board ended the month $50,000 short of meeting its payroll obligations.

Vol. 02, Issue 41

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