National News Roundup

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Nearly three-fourths of the nation's teacher-education programs have stiffened their admission standards during the last five years, according to a preliminary draft of a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The survey, which surveyed 423 schools out of 1,206 known to offer teacher-training programs, was conducted at the request of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.

Among those schools surveyed, 85 percent also said they had made their curricula more demanding over the past five years, and 94 percent said they had made at least one change in their admissions procedures designed to improve the quality of applicants, according to the study.

But only five percent had extended their programs beyond a four-year sequence, and only 15 percent said they would like to do so, the study found.

At the excellence commission's hearings, many educators recommended extending teacher-training programs to five years to add to the rigor of teacher education.

The final report will available later this month, according to nces officials.

About 40 percent of the reductions in federal benefit programs during the past two years have had their greatest impact on households with annual incomes below $10,000, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.

In addition, the 80-page report notes that federal spending on education, social services, and employment and training has shrunk from 6 percent of the total federal budget in 1980 to 3 percent in 1982; it predicts that the decline will continue through 1985.

The cbo report, which was commissioned by House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., Democrat of Massachusetts, gauged the impact of the budget reductions by comparing current funding projections through 1985 with those that would have existed had the President and the Congress taken no action to change the laws since 1981.

According to that analysis, by 1985 federal spending for all human-resources programs will be reduced by about 7 percent relative to what it would have been at the beginning of 1981.

Federal education programs, however, will fare worse than many others, the analysis continued. Spending on the Chapter 1 program for disdvantaged students will be 17 percent below 1981 projections, the report noted.

Child-nutrition programs will be reduced by 28 percent, and vocational-education programs will have their funding cut by 12 percent, the cbo said.

The National Association of State Boards of Education, seeking, its leaders say, "to assert leadership" in the current efforts to reform the schools, has established a Task Force on Education Quality.

The 50-member panel, with a representative of each state, held its first meeting late last month at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wis.; 28 members attended. The group produced "a blueprint for action" that addressed such topics as teaching, the length of school day and school year, curriculum, and school organization.

It will present the blueprint to the organization's full membership at its annual meeting in New Orleans next month, according to Gene Wilhoit, associate executive director of nasbe

The organization will then provide technical assistance to individual state boards of education as a way of encouraging the implementation of the reforms outlined in the blueprint, Mr. Wilhoit said.

States News Roundup

An experiment that will extend the school year to 200 days in two North Carolina districts has survived its first legal challenge.

Judge Robert L. Farmer of Wake County Superior Court overturned a temporary restraining order that had barred school officials from spending state money on the experiment. The order, handed down in the same court, had been modified by Judge William Grist of McDowell County to allow the two districts to open school as planned on Aug. 15, in keeping with the new 200-day schedule.

The lawsuit was filed by 36 residents of the two districts who charged that the plan violates the constitutional requirement for conformity in the state school system.

The three-year pilot project adds 20 days to the normal 180-day schedule, and extends classroom time to seven hours--30 minutes longer than usual.

The plan is voluntary and $2.2 million in state funds has been ap-propriated to implement it.

A lawyer for the residents said he planned to appeal the decision in a higher state court.

Adopting a concept being experimented with in West Virginia, the Maryland state board of education last week endorsed a plan that would create a state-level foundation to raise private-sector funds for public schools.

The board also voted to ask the legislature to fund a $2-million scholarship program to cover the college costs of some 300 high-school graduates each year who are enrolled in teacher-training programs and agree to teach in the state's public schools for four years.

"The students must have grade-point averages of 3.5 or better and the state superintendent may identify areas of shortage. Students planning to teach in these will receive special preference," said Gus A. Crenson, director of public information and publications for the state department of education.

The board requested an $890.8-million budget for fiscal 1984-85, an increase of 5.9 percent over the budget for the current fiscal year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last month refused to rehear an appeal by the parents of a student with behaviorial problems who had sought and been denied reimbursement for tuition they paid to send their child to a private school.

Milton Schmidt, director of personnel for the Mountain View-Los Altos (Calif.) Unified School District, said the appeals court had upheld a lower court's decision in favor of the school district on the grounds that reimbursement of fees under P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, does not extend to parents who place their children in a private school and then seek retroactive payment. "The mother placed the boy without consulting us," he explained.

The case, Mountain View-Los Altos Unified School District v. Sharron B.H., was filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California. Mr. Schmidt said the student was evaluated and "we felt he was minimally handicapped."

"He had behavioral problems but there was no discrepancy between ability and achievement," Mr. Schmidt explained. But the district, nevertheless, agreed to place him in a "least-restrictive program" in the district, he said.

By that time, according to Mr. Schmidt, the parents had already placed the student in a private school.

Citing an earlier appeals-court ruling, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the federal law does not provide for damage awards, except in the event the district acted in bad faith. The court said that was not a factor in this case.

A federal judge last month refused to order a Texas college to enroll a student who failed to meet the college's admissions requirements because she attended an unaccredited high school.

Judge William Wayne Justice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas rejected a request for a preliminary injunction that would have required Stephen F. Austin University to admit Carolyn Prater for the fall semester.

Ms. Prater has not decided whether to seek a full trial, her lawyer, Trey Yarbrough, said last week.

The student had contended that the college's requirement that students attend an accredited high school violated her religious beliefs. She attended Grace Community School, a private Christian school in Tyler, Tex., with 250 students from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

In order to win the injunction that would have allowed her to attend the school, Ms. Prater would have had to prove that her need for injunctive relief outweighed the college's right to control admission policies.

In denying the injunction, Judge Justice said Ms. Prater failed to show enough evidence that she would succeed in an eventual court test, that she was threatened with an irreparable injury, that her interests would be damaged more than those of the college if she were not admitted, or that her case would not harm the public interest.

Austin University officials say Ms. Prater could be admitted if she completes 15 credits at a two-yearcollege.

Gov. Richard W. Riley of South Carolina has announced that he will convene a series of public meetings to muster support for education reform, which he said will be his top legislative priority this year. The first meeting will take place next week.

Last winter, Governor Riley proposed a wide-ranging set of education reforms, but the General Assembly subsequently failed to approve an increase in the state sales tax that he said was necessary to finance the plan. Mr. Riley said he will press for the plan's passage when the legislature starts its 1984 session next January.

The "Move to Quality" reform package originally was proposed by State Superintendent of Education Charlie G. Williams. Its 41 points include provisions for increasing standards at academic and vocational schools and providing extra funding for critical areas.

Two committees appointed by the Governor to study education will present their reports in October, Mr. Riley said. The committees are looking into the state's way of financing education and the role that businesses should play in education.

Next week's public meeting will take place in Charleston. Other meetings will be held in Aiken, Anderson, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, and Rock Hill.

District News Roundup

Students in the Mount Diablo Unified School district in Martinez, Calif., will no longer have to get parental permission to read Ms. Magazine in the school library.

Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge David Dolgin last month nullified a school-board policy that had been in effect since June 1980, when community pressure forced the board to require that students under age 18 who wanted to read the feminist monthly obtain written permission from their parents.

The suit, which charged that the school's policy violated the First Amendment rights of the students and the magazine's publisher, was brought in 1980 by two students and their parents, several teachers, and the Ms. Foundation for Education and Communication.

In dismissing the policy, Judge Dolgin said he accepted the concept that parents have the right to control their children's reading choices, but added that "neither the school board nor the objecting parents may exercise this right for children not their own."

Now, students' access to the publi-cation can be limited only if their parents submit a formal request.

Margaret O'Donnell, attorney for the school district, said that although the school board technically lost the case, "the rights of the parents were upheld."

"The board feels upheld in the sense that [the judge] did find that the parent's rights were superior to the students' rights and that there could be a policy that protects those rights," Ms. O'Donnell explained.

The school board has not met since Judge Dolgin ruled in the case, McKamey v. Mount Diablo Unified School District.

In what is believed to the first such plan nationally, the Elizabethton (Tenn.) City School District has adopted a 1983-84 school-year plan with a two-month winter break.

The break--which is a consolidation of several holidays and inservice days for teachers--will extend from Dec. 21 to Feb. 19, according to Kenneth M. Moffett, director of special programs in the district.

Under the new plan, the opening day for schools shifted from Aug. 18 to Aug. 15. The schools will close about two weeks later in the spring.

Superintendent of Schools Roy Ellis devised the plan primarily to save energy costs. Mr. Ellis expects to save $75,000 the first year.

One source of potential savings, Mr. Moffett said, is a high school that relies totally on electric power. That school, he said, "has had electric bills in January and February as high as $20,000 a month."

Last week, a federal appellate court refused to temporarily overturn a district court's decision to stop the Mobile County (Ala.) School System from requiring teachers to pass part of the National Teacher Examinations before they can be employed or receive tenure.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta rejected, without comment, the Mobile school board's request that it stay an order issued last month by Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Judge Thompson issued a preliminary injunction barring the 66,000-student school system from further use of the test on the grounds that its current use of the test apparently violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in employment.

In his opinion, the judge wrote: "In view of the fact that the Mobile County School System is 36-percent to 39-percent black, but 66 percent to 67 percent of those denied re-employment because of the test requirement were black, the conclusion is inescapable that when all the evidence is in, adverse racial impact will probably be found in the Mobile County School System."

Judge Thompson's ruling was largely a result of the Mobile school board's failure to "validate" the examination by showing that it tests for the skills that the county expects its teachers to have before introducing it in 1979, according to lawyers involved in the case. As a result, the case is not expected to have a significant effect on the use of the nte or other similar standardized tests that are being mandated by a growing number of states, the lawyers said.

News Update

Nearly half of the Florida students who did not recieve high-school diplomas this year because they failed the mathematics section of the state's high-school graduation test have since passed the test and will receive diplomas.

The test was ruled constitutional this spring, when a federal judge issued his finding in Debra P. v. Turlington. (See Education Week, May 11, 1983.)

Of the 1,121 "former regular high-school students" in the class of 1983 who took the test in July, 47 percent passed, according to the state education department. Most of those students had already passed the communication section of the two-part test. Of the 225 who took the latter part of the test, 54 percent passed.

The rate of passage is higher for those students enrolled in adult-education programs, three-fourths of whom are under 21 years of age and had dropped out of high school. Those students are also more likely to pass the test the first time they take it, according to Philip Grise, who coordinates the adult-assessment program for the education department. Of the 1,149 adults who took the test, 39 percent had taken it before. Overall, 66 percent passed the mathematics section of the test. Of the 830 students who took the communication test, 86 percent passed.

"There's a big difference in terms of the motivation," Mr. Grise said of the adult students. "They're not a captive group; they've chosen to return to school to improve themselves. They are willing to work harder, struggle harder."

Earlier this year, the House and Senate moved to resolve problems regarding the supervision of Congressional pages by restricting page appointments to 16-year-olds and by housing them in a supervised dormitory. (See Education Week, Feb. 23, 1983.)

But now that the question of supervision appears to have been resolved, another problem has taken its place--that of the pages' education. And according to Congressional staff members, an impasse between the House and Senate over how best to resolve that problem has resulted in the temporary establishment of a dual education system for pages.

Shortly before they left Washington for their August recess, members of the House voted to set up a new private school for their messengers and errand runners.

The bipartisan House Page Board selected a principal for the new school--Robert F. Knauz, a school administrator from Kirkland, Ill.--and gave him authority to hire teachers and staff.

Senate members, on the other hand, voted to renew the existing Capitol Page School's 40-year-old contract with the District of Columbia's school board. That school will continue to be headed by John C. Hoffman.

Both chambers recessed without reconciling their their differences, meaning that when classes resume on Sept. 6, two schools will occupy the space on the third floor of the Library of Congress that used to be occupied by one.

According to the office of the House Doorkeeper, which is responsible for the House pages, negotiations between the two chambers over the future of the schools are continuing.

Of Mice and Men: Micky Mouse and Walt Disney

To the gallery of psychohistory subjects--Hitler, Nixon, Wilson, Gandhi--students of biography must now add Mickey Mouse.

Although Mickey sprang full-grown from the head of his creator, Walt Disney, who also provided his voice in animated adventures, he developed psychologically through the years in ways that reflected the changes Disney underwent as he became older and more successful.

That, anyway, is the argument advanced in "Mickey Mouse: A Brief Psychohistory," a paper presented during a symposium on "Mickey Mouse: The Psychology of a National Symbol" at the convention of the American Psychological Association in Anaheim--home of the Magic Kingdom--last week.

In the paper, John P. Murray, director of youth and family policy at The Boys Town Center in Nebraska, writes: "In his earlier roles, Mickey was a plucky, scrappy, perennially optimistic youngster out for a good time and willing to take chances. So, too, Disney's childhood and early professional life, including the years surrounding the development of Mickey Mouse, were a series of optimistic assaults on seemingly insurmountable obstacles ranging from professional rejection to several near bankruptcies.

"Later in his professional life when career and company were well established, Disney's version of Mickey Mouse became more subdued. No longer the youthful peccadillos and lustful pursuit of Minnie Mouse for Mickey, but rather ... a more sober, staid, and suburban mouse." Alas, "the shorted, shirtless rodent wearing his father's oversized shoes," grew up, moved to suburbia and adventures with Goofy and the Secret Service, and finally assumed his established position as official host of Disneyland.

His, it seems, is truly a paradigmatic tale of upward mobility. "So," Mr. Murray concludes, "when you see Mickey bounding around the streets of Disneyland shaking hands and being the congenial host, you might think of him as more than a mere mouse."

Vol. 03, Issue 01

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