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A federal judge in Massachusetts last week signed a court order putting an end to a 21-year-old lawsuit over the quality of care in that state's institutions for individuals with mental retardation.

The order by U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro spells out strict guidelines for the care of the 2,600 adults who remain in the state's seven residential institutions. It also requires the Governor to appoint a nine member commission to continue to monitor conditions at those facilities.

The state's institutions have been operating under court orders since the 1970's after parents of adults and children at the Belchertown State School filed a lawsuit alleging that their children were mistreated and often left naked, overmedicated, and dirty.

The case was later consolidated with similar lawsuits alleging squalid conditions at the other state facilities.

At the time, Judge Tauro described the institutions as "pigpens and warehouses.''

The Arkansas state board of education last month adopted a new set of minimum standards for public schools that feature more mathematics and science classes and a longer school day.

The changes are the first major revision of the standards since they were overhauled in 1983 by a task force led by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Under the proposal, which still must be approved by a legislative council, starting with the class of 1997, high school students would be required to complete 21 units of coursework rather than 20.

Previously, students completed 13.5 of the 20 units in required core courses, including a total of five units of math and science. Under the new standards, 15 of the 21 units must be completed in required courses, including six in math and science. Students must also complete a half-unit public-speaking course.

In addition, by 1997, schools would be required to offer two "paths'' of coursework--one a core of college-preparatory classes, the other emphasizing applied math and science to ready students for a postsecondary technical education. Students would be able to switch from one path to the other, said Bob Maddox, the coordinator of field services at the state department of education.

And beginning this fall, the school day would be lengthened to an average of six hours, compared with the current day, which is 5 hours. The board will give schools some latitude in how to implement this change by imposing the requirement in the form of a minimum 30-hour school week.

Vol. 12, Issue 36

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