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Gov. Ann Richards of Texas has approved shutting down one of two state schools for the mentally retarded targeted for closing by a state task force.

The state must close 2 of its 13 state schools in order to comply with a court settlement in a 17-year-old case involving the care of mentally retarded individuals in that state. (See Education Week, March 25, 1992.)

Ms. Richards said on March 26 that she agreed with a task force's recommendation to shut down the Travis State School in Austin by 1995. She rejected, however, the task force's recommendation to close the state's largest institution, the Mexia State School in rural Mexia, by 1999. The school houses about 1,000 residents and employs about 1,400 of Mexia's 7,000 citizens.

"I cannot in good conscience agree to anything that would so completely devastate a Texas community,'' Ms. Richards said.

Rather than close Mexia, the Governor recommended closing the much smaller Fort Worth State School and converting that facility into a drug-treatment center for prison inmates. That school is located less than a mile from a federal prison and about 30 miles from another state school.

However, David Ferleger, a lawyer for the parents and guardians who brought the original lawsuit against the state in 1974, warned that the Governor's decision not to accept the task force's recommendations could jeopardize the settlement in the case.

The trustees of the College Board have voted to allow students to use four-function, scientific, and graphing calculators on the mathematics sections of its new tests.

Students taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test will be able to use the calculators beginning in October 1993, and students taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test will be able to use them in March 1994. Calculator use will be evaluated after one year.

The trustees' decision comes 17 months after the board decided that students could use calculators on the new tests. That decision did not specify, however, what kinds of calculators could be used. (See Education Week, Nov. 7, 1990.)

A College Board researcher said the decision to allow students to use high-performance calculators resulted from surveys of students, teachers, advisory groups, and its membership; research on calculator use in mathematics education; and the solicited opinions of leading educators.

Starting in 1993, graduates of vocational programs at New Jersey high schools will come equipped with a guarantee: If employers find graduates lacking in job-related skills, the schools will take the former students back for retraining at no cost.

The guarantee initially will cover graduates of eight career programs: accounting clerks, cashiers, child-care workers, cooks, cosmetologists, electricians, nursing assistants, and secretaries.

The New Jersey Department of Education hopes to expand the guarantee to include 100 career-training programs by 1995, according to Thomas A. Henry, the state's assistant commissioner of vocational education.

Initially, the guarantee will only include job-specific skills and not basic reading, mathematics, or writing skills, although the department expects to expand the guarantee to include the academic skills in the future.

While the state will not require that its 20 vocational schools guarantee students, all of the schools have volunteered to do so, Mr. Henry said.

The New Jersey pledge follows the lead of two other states that have implemented guarantee programs. (See Education Week, Jan. 15, 1992). Starting with the class of 1995, West Virginia schools will guarantee all graduates in basic reading, writing, and math skills.

In Colorado, schools are encouraged, although not required, to guarantee their graduates; to date, 17 of the state's 176 districts have instituted guarantee programs.

Vol. 11, Issue 29

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