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Fewer students than expected have failed Indiana's new competency test, prompting state officials to consider adjusting its minimum passing score.

Preliminary data show that 4 percent to 5 percent of the 500,000 students tested failed the examination, which is used to screen pupils for summer remedial programs and possible grade retention.

Based on the results of a pilot test, the state education department had predicted that 8 percent to 10 percent would fail the Indiana Statewide Test for Educational Progress, which is given in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grades.

State officials say teacher preparation, parental involvement, and student motivation may account for the high success rate.

The department plans to study the test results and re-examine the passing standard, according to Joseph P. DiLaura, a spokesman for H. Dean Evans, the state school chief.

Mr. DiLaura said the department may recommend that the cutoff score for summer remediation be set higher than the score for grade retention to address the concern that the low failure rate could deter school districts from recommending some borderline students for summer school.

"We don't want to miss people who would have benefited from remediation,'' he said.

The Tennessee education department will cut 88 jobs and eliminate two district field offices in a reorganization that state officials say will slice $2.4 million from the state payroll.

The restructuring, announced this month, is the result of a 16-month internal review; it is the third set of staff reductions implemented by Charles E. Smith since he became state education commissioner last year. The changes will go into effect July 1.

Of the positions to be eliminated, 51 are vacant and 33 of the remaining 37 are held by career-service employees, who will be offered comparable state jobs without loss of pay or seniority, said Mr. Smith.

Two of the department's nine field offices will be closed and their staff members reassigned among the other offices. In addition, six data-collection divisions will be consolidated, and two offices that handle teacher certification will be merged.

Nebraska should consider consolidating its 927 school districts to eliminate "dramatic and unfair'' disparities in education funding, a study commissioned by the legislature contends.

The report, by researchers at Syracuse University, found that the ability of districts to raise local school revenues varies widely and that the state's school-aid formula does little to offset the differences.

The study suggested that making district boundaries coterminous with county boundaries would be a more cost-effective means of reducing the disparities than would revising the state-aid formula. The state, it said, should consider changing the formula only after consolidating districts.

A retired Jersey City, N.J., school official has been indicted on charges of extortion and income-tax evasion in an ongoing investigation of corruption in the city's troubled schools, according to federal investigators.

William J. Fisher, former director of school maintenance, was arrested last week for allegedly receiving $257,000 in kickbacks from three contractors for himself and other officials. Mr. Fisher was also charged with underreporting his income by about $186,000, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

State school officials say the inquiry is not tied to their attempt to take over the district.

Vol. 07, Issue 39

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