State News Roundup

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Education officials expect about one-fourth of New Jersey's high school juniors to fail at least one of the three sections of a new test they need to pass in order to graduate next year.

The test, which juniors took in October, counts for the first time with the graduating class of 1995.

Test scores are scheduled to be released in the next few weeks.

"The intent is to measure higher levels of skills,'' said Gerald DeMauro, the director of statewide assessment for the state education department.

The test is divided into three sections--one for reading, one for writing, and one for mathematics.

Students will be given three additional opportunities to take the test and pass. If they continue to fail, they will not receive a diploma and will be referred for remediation.

An alternative assessment will be made available in special circumstances for some students, such as those who have extreme difficulty taking standardized tests.

Reimbursement Ruling: Massachusetts school districts and municipalities are not entitled to reimbursement for implementing education regulations imposed after a 1981 law barring the state from passing unfunded mandates, the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled this month.

"Municipalities ... are entitled only to a declaration that those 'mandates' are ineffective,'' the court wrote.

Worcester, Mass., officials filed the suit last year, claiming that they were owed nearly $1 million for special-education, basic-skills-testing, and foreign-language programs mandated by the state after passage of the 1981 measure, Proposition 2.

A little-known provision of the local-tax-limitation measure bars the state from mandating unfunded programs.

While finding that the specific regulations Worcester cited did not constitute unfunded mandates because they essentially were not new laws, the court said it chose to go "beyond the necessities'' of the case and rule that the only remedy for an unfunded mandate is a court-ordered exemption.

Sex-Education Vote: The Texas board of education voted 12 to 3 this month to require that the state's new "self-responsibility'' curriculum stress sexual abstinence and teach students to say no to sex.

The vote was a compromise move that came after a board member attempted to remove the curriculum, which includes instruction about preventing pregnancy and H.I.V. infection.

The self-responsibility program, which is still being developed, will emphasize the failure rate of condoms. It will also give parents the option of requiring their children to leave the classroom when the sex-education classes are being taught.

Districts will not be forced to adopt the new curriculum, which may not be introduced until next year, a spokeswoman for the education board said.

Vol. 13, Issue 18

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