State News Roundup

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A bill that will loosen the state's policy toward home schools was approved by Washington lawmakers last week and is expected to be signed by Gov. Booth Gardner.

The bill, SSB3279, will amend the state's compulsory-education laws to "recognize home schooling as one appropriate way for children to be educated," according to Judy L. Hartmann, administrative assistant to the state superintendent for governmental liaison.

Essentially, the state is abandoning its "feeble efforts to enforce the mandatory-attendance act, on the3assumption that children will receive viable educational experiences at home," according to one state education official.

Under the terms of the bill, parents must notify local school districts of their intention to teach their children at home. The parents must provide instruction in the same basic skills required for public-school children and also keep immunization and testing records.

Parents who operate home schools must either have had a year of college study, or proof they have attended a home-school program offered by a postsecondary institution, or be deemed "otherwise qualified to teach" by the local school superintendent.

In lieu of these requirements, however, parents may have a certified teacher supervise their home-school program, meeting with the home pupils for at least four hours each month to examine their progress.

The bill includes a stipulation that standardized achievement tests be administered annually to home-educated children. If a deficiency is discovered, the parents must make good-faith efforts to remedy the problem or risk having their "school" closed.

The legislature has yet to act on a related issue--guidelines for the approval of unaccredited Christian academies that do not recognize government control of education. It will probably take up the matter in its next session, which begins in January.

A coalition of Illinois school-management organizations led by the Illinois School Boards Association has announced a school-reform plan that advocates giving districts flexibility in working toward the goals of recent education proposals.

"The General Assembly has been presented with so many reform proposals that no one can reasonably comprehend them all," said Harold P. Seamon, executive director of the isba, in announcing the plan. "Our school-management groups simply decided that someone representing local school districts had to sort through the maze of ideas and come up with a combination that will work to make schools better."

The coalition, which represents administrators as well as groups that lobby for large urban districts and suburban Chicago school systems, endorses suggestions for raising minimum teachers' salaries. But it suggests that the amount be left to local collective bargaining rather than set by state law at the $15,000-to-$20,000 level called for in many state reform reports.

The coalition also supports learner outcomes and testing of students' academic progress in mathematics, reading, and language. But the panel insists that the learning objectives and student-promotion decisions be determined locally.

The group favors recommendations calling for competency testing of prospective teachers. But it recommends that the probationary period for new teachers be extended from two to five years and that administrators be allowed to base teacher layoffs on training, experience, and ability rather than on seniority.

State Superintendent of Education Thomas G. Clausen of Louisiana has asked the legislature to approve a pilot program that would provide teachers with extra pay for raising the level of student achievement.

The pilot project, which would involve one school in each of the state's 66 parishes, would cost between $5-million and $10 million in the 1985-86 school year.

A one-time pay raise would be awarded in two stages under the plan and would be tied both to teacher initiative and actual classroom results.

Teachers in the program would receive an extra month's salary for working an extra 180 hours either during the summer or during the school year on plans to improve student learning.

Students would be tested at the beginning and end of each school year. Teachers in schools whose students showed achievement gains at the end of the school year beyond those normally expected would receive a second 10-percent one-time pay increase, provided other program objectives relating to the entire school are met, including a decline in suspensions, expulsions, and absenteeism and an increase in parental involvement.

According to Mr. Clausen, the program would cost less than $200-million a year, even if every school in the state participated and each met the goals for the second 10-percent salary bonus.

William E. Steve Stephens Jr., assistant superintendent for academics, said the proposal was offered after members of Gov. Edwin Edward's career-ladder commission failed to agree on the components of a proposed career-ladder plan for teachers.

A federal judge has barred a Rhode Island teacher from dropping his certification as a mathematics and science teacher to keep his job as a guidance counselor.

Joseph O. Audet Jr., a science teacher at Cumberland High School, filed suit last year claiming that the state's refusal to drop his certification violated the involuntary-servitude provision of the 13th Amendment and his civil rights.

Mr. Audet lost his position as a counselor in 1982 when, to accommodate the state's tenure law, his school district was forced to reassign him to make room for a previously laid-off teacher who was being rehired.

Under the tenure law, a school district must rehire laid-off teachers on the basis of seniority, regardless of whether the teacher rehired is certified to teach the subject in which there is a vacancy, explained Forrest L. Avila, legal counsel to the commissioner of education.

In denying Mr. Audet's challenge, U.S. District Judge Bruce M. Selya stated that "certification is ... a signal to the institutional world that the holder is qualified to instruct in the specialty and at that level."

"If the commissioner were to allow individual academicians to determine (of their own will) whether they were or were not so equipped," the judge ruled, "the result would be chaos; certification would lose all meaning, the system of public education--already hard-pressed in many quarters--would be hamstrung, and the public would be sorely disserved."

Illinois school districts would be required to provide full-day kindergarten for all students and preschool programs for "academically at-risk" 4-year-olds under a plan proposed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ted Sanders.

Under the superintendent's proposal, local districts would be required to have in place by January screening procedures to identify children with a high potential of academic failure. Districts would then be mandated to offer, by the fall of 1986, all-day preschool programs for children who would reach their 4th birthday by Dec. 1, 1986.

Maintaining that full-day kindergartens offer academic benefits "superior" to those of part-time programs, Mr. Sanders said there is "convincing evidence that providing early-childhood education for academically at-risk children yields significant results and is an extremely cost-effective approach to reducing school failures."

He also said a study conducted by his staff suggests that children who are most in need of preschool programs often are denied such services. And he estimated that about a third of the 180,000 4-year-olds in Illinois could be considered academically at risk.

The Illinois State Board of Educa-tion is scheduled to consider the rec-ommendation by next month; if that body approves the proposal, it would then go to the legislature.

A report on education in central Appalachia has found that counties in the mountainous, coal-mining re-gions of eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia have significantly higher dropout rates and higher percentages of people with less than a 9th-grade education than other counties in the four-state region.

The report, "Dropout and Functional Illiteracy Rates in Central Appalachia," terms the dropout problem particularly severe in the 49 counties of eastern Kentucky, where 30.7 percent of youths between the ages of 16 and 19 have not earned diplomas and are not en6rolled in school, compared with 19.8 percent of the age group in the state's other counties.

Moreover, the study emphasizes, the counties that have high poverty rates and cannot provide much local money for education are those that suffer most by cuts in state and federal programs.

The report is based on 1980 census data; it is the first publication to be released by the Appalachian Data Bank project at the University of Kentucky.

Vol. 04, Issue 31

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