District News Roundup

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Some suburban Milwaukee school districts are making money from bonuses they receive from the state for participating in a desegregation program, while Milwaukee schools are losing money on the transportation costs of the program, according to state and local officials.

Under the transfer program, white suburban students may attend city schools, and minority city children may attend suburban schools. Districts get money from the state for each transfer student.

According to state education department figures, Milwaukee received about $26 million this year under the program. But the district spent $25 million to supply transportation for all of the nearly 5,400 participating students.

That left only $1 million to cover the cost of educating the more than 1,000 suburban students who transferred to Milwaukee.

But payments to 19 suburban districts, which have no transportation costs under the program, will total $21.6 million. That amount includes more than $3.2 million in bonus payments, which districts receive when at least 5 percent of their students are transfers.

Some state lawmakers have called for elimination of the bonus payments.

Fairfax, Va., teachers were absent less often last year because of the district's new merit-pay system, according to district officials.

Absenteeism, which had jumped by 20 percent between 1984 and 1987, fell by 17 percent in the last year. Officials told the school board last month that the only factor that could account for the sudden turnaround was the merit-pay system, which took effect last year. The system includes a performance evaluation that takes a teacher's absence rate into account in determining promotions.

Fairfax teachers took an average of 11.4 days off during the 1987-88 school year--about 2 fewer days than in the previous year, but still 2.6 days more than the national average.

San Francisco school officials have launched a project aimed at developing the speaking and writing skills of the district's polyglot population.

The project, known as Humanities Education, Research, and Language Development, will bring together English and social-studies teachers in order to develop humanities curricula that would increase student participation in speaking and writing activities.

The herald project will help students "communicate in an intelligent way," said Ramon C. Cortines, San Francisco's superintendent of schools. Special efforts are needed in the district, he said, because nearly half of its students come from homes where English is not the primary language.

Funded by grants from the Rockefeller, Stuart, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations, the herald project this year will include 27 teachers and more than 1,000 9th graders in five high schools. Five new schools will be added each year until all 25 high schools are involved.

Graduates of the Whitewater (Wis.) High School will soon be able to give prospective employers a well-documented record of their work habits and personal characteristics.

Under a plan approved by the school board, the school's 260 freshmen and sophomores will be evaluated by each of their teachers this January on both their work habits and their academic achievement. The ratings will assess pupils' attendance, timeliness and quality of work, behavior, ability to follow instructions, and ability to work with others.

Upon graduation, students will receive a "diploma folder" containing those reports, along with annual self-evaluations, references from previous employers, and a record of nonschool activities.

Vol. 08, Issue 10

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