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As part of a statewide AIDS-prevention program, the Florida Department of Education has equipped every public school in the state with a videodisk player and a videodisk containing information about the disease.

In a cooperative effort that began this fall, the state distributed copies of a videodisk created by ABC News Interactive, a division of the television network's news department, and produced by the Optical Data Corporation of Warren, N.J.

The state also purchased approximately 2,500 videodisk players from Pioneer Communications of America. Apple Computer, which is also participating in the project, created special HyperCard stacks, or software for the Macintosh computer, to manipulate the images stored on the disks.

Betty Castor, Florida's commissioner of education, said in a statement that the videodisk technology, which provides access to thousands of still and full-motion video images, "gives the classroom teacher a solid resource for what is often a difficult subject to teach."

Once the machines and disks become accepted as instructional aids, state officials said, they can be used to teach other controversial or difficult lessons.

The Montana attorney general's office has ruled that the state board of education cannot legally require school districts to offer courses for gifted and talented students.

The school board had adopted a requirement, as part of its new accreditation standards, that all schools "make an identifiable effort to provide educational services to gifted and talented students" by mid-1992.

Supporters argued that the measure would help gifted students reach their full potential, while opponents countered that the mandate would vastly increase school costs.

In an opinion drafted last month at the request of the board, Attorney General Marc Racicot held that state law does not give the board the power to mandate compliance with the provisions on the gifted and talented.

"Each school district may choose to implement such a program," he wrote, but the board "cannot, by rule, require it to do so."

The draft opinion will have the effect of law if it is not challenged within a 30-day comment period.

The annual dropout rate in Massachusetts' high schools dropped 10 percent between 1988 and 1989, from 5.4 percent to 4.9 percent, according to a study by the state education department.

Urban schools recorded the greatest improvements, with the rate declining from 8.9 percent to 8 percent. In addition, according to the report, the dropout rate among black teenagers declined from 10.6 percent in 1988 to 9.2 percent in 1989.

State education officials attributed the decline in large measure to the Educational Improvement Act of 1985, which appropriated funding for dropout-prevention programs and remedial efforts.

Peaking in the 1987 fiscal year at $11 million, funding for the state grants totals $2.3 million this year.

"If the funding continues to be cut and dries up the way it appears is being done," said Edward S. Melikian, a spokesman for the education department, "we are not going to see these kinds of results in the future."

Vol. 10, Issue 11

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