State News Roundup

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The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has given preliminary approval to a revised version of the state's controversial teacher-evaluation program, but will continue to refine it.

The legislature must grant final approval for the plan in a special session to be held in the late spring or early summer, according to Gov. Edwin W. Edwards's office.

Under the proposed plan, about 1,400 beginning teachers would be evaluated each year under the state system, leaving local districts in charge of evaluating veteran teachers. The program is scheduled to start this fall.

The beginning teachers would be evaluated by principals, teachers, and "external assessors,'' such as college professors or central-office administrators.

The politically charged teacher-evaluation program began in 1988, when the legislature passed a bill that offered teachers a hefty raise in return for agreeing to periodic evaluation and recertification.

The program was suspended in 1991, however, after protests by the state's teachers' unions. The suspension expires in September. (See Education Week, Dec. 15, 1993.)

Sexual-Harassment Liability: New Mexico school districts are not shielded from liability in discrimination suits, the state supreme court has ruled, returning a sexual-harassment suit against the Santa Fe school district to a lower court for consideration.

In the suit, a Santa Fe middle school teacher alleges that a fellow teacher touched her and made inappropriate sexual advances. Despite her complaints, she charges, school administrators put her in a teaching group with her colleague.

A district court dismissed the teacher's suit in 1992, arguing that a state law exempts public employees and entities from liability. In reversing the decision, the supreme court ruled that the law is superseded by the state Human Rights Act, which defines state entities as private individuals in discrimination suits.

Exit Exam Upheld: A Louisiana appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of the state's exit exam for public high school students.

The court reversed a district-court decision last year that the five-part Graduate Exit Examination--which high school seniors have had to pass since 1991 to receive a diploma--was unconstitutional because it was not required of students enrolled in private and parochial schools. The district judge found that the test violated the equal-protection clause of the state and federal constitutions.

More than 500 high school seniors did not graduate last year because they could not pass all five parts of the test.

The group of parents challenging the test plans to appeal the decision to the state supreme court.

The U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights is investigating Ohio's graduation test. (See related story, page 1.)

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