News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Kentucky Teachers To Benefit From State Test Corrections

Teachers in 21 Kentucky schools and five districts are now eligible for cash rewards for improved student performance as a result of corrected scores on the 1996 state assessment.

The teachers, victims of a testing contractor's mistake, join those at 11 other schools who had already become eligible for the rewards as a result of other data corrections or successful appeals, the state education department announced last week. The total amount of new, additional rewards is expected to be about $1.5 million.

In making the corrections to the 1996 error, which affected scores of 4th and 8th graders, Kentucky officials also discovered a scoring error in the 8th grade test for 1995, which lowered scores. In some cases, the corrections canceled each other out, said Lisa Y. Gross, a spokeswoman for the education department.

The 1996 data processing error by test contractor Advanced Systems in Measurement and Evaluation Inc. of Dover, N.H., was discovered in June, prompting the state to fire the company. ("Ky. Fires Firm That Ran Innovative Testing Program," July 9, 1997.)

Charter Gets Another Look

A University of California, San Diego, task force has renewed efforts to establish an on-campus, college-preparatory charter school for disadvantaged students.

Faculty members voted last spring against creating a charter high school, prompting the provost of UCSD's Thurgood Marshall College, Cecil Lytle, to submit his resignation.

The task force, which was formed following the vote, said its new proposal would do a better job of serving low-income students and increasing racial and ethnic diversity.

"We now have a comprehensive approach that also incorporates partnerships in the community," said Paul Drake, a dean of social sciences at UCSD and a co-chairman of the task force.

Mr. Lytle, who has returned to his post, would work on the project if it is approved by representatives in the school's academic senate in November, Mr. Drake said.

The charter school would serve 400 to 600 students from low-income households in grades 6 through 12.

Principals To Gain Power

A divided Detroit school board has moved to put more power in the hands of principals, following the recommendations of a blue-ribbon business panel.

The board voted 7-4 this month to give principals more control over their school budgets and daily operations at the expense of six area offices, which will be eliminated. The plan will also institute parent service centers in schools by Jan. 16.

The plan was put forward by a panel of business leaders convened at the board's request by the civic coalition New Detroit Inc. Some parent activists opposed the plan, which would in effect dismantle parent groups now attached to the area offices.

Judge Allows Rosary Beads

A Texas school district's policy against gang apparel is overly vague and cannot be used to bar two students from wearing rosary beads at school, a federal judge has ruled.

Officials of the 5,500-student New Caney district near Houston had told the students, David Chalifoux and Jerry Robertson, that they could not wear the rosaries outside their shirts because the beads were on a list of prohibited gang apparel. Parents of the two New Caney High School students sued the district last spring in federal district court in Houston to challenge the prohibition.

The boys have said they wore the glow-in-the-dark rosary beads to demonstrate their Roman Catholic faith, even though most Catholics do not wear the beads around their necks. Rosaries are used in a devotion involving silent or spoken prayer.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner ruled Sept. 3 that the boys' wearing of the beads was expression protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The school district, which is considering whether to appeal, had argued that it was trying to protect the boys from gang violence because the rosary beads are used as a symbol by some gangs.

Wash. Tests Prove Difficult

Students in Washington state have a "steep mountain to climb" when it comes to meeting the state's rigorous new education standards, Gov. Gary Locke said following the release of recent test scores.

Only 14 percent of the nearly 68,000 4th graders who voluntarily took a new state exam covering reading, writing, mathematics, and listening skills achieved the state's standard in all four areas.

Students performed best on the listening-skills section of the exam, with 62 percent meeting or exceeding the standard score set by the state. The math portion proved to be the most challenging, with only 22 percent of the students achieving the targeted score.

Most Fail N.Y. Math Exam

It was rough going for 2,600 New York high school students who took part last spring in a trial run of questions for a new state math exam, with more than eight in 10 failing to earn a passing grade.

The pilot testing was part of the state's push to stiffen graduation requirements and align its exams with revised curriculum standards adopted last year. After a phase-in period, students will have to pass the new math exam and similar tests in other subjects in order to graduate. ("Harder Tests Spur Debate on N.Y. Diploma," June 11, 1997.)

In announcing the testing results last week, state Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills said they underscored the need for students to take challenging courses. The passing rate among students enrolled in honors courses was 62 percent, compared with a rate of 19 percent overall, officials said.

Mr. Mills said he intends to have the revised test ready for districts to give at their option in 1999 and to administer it statewide in 2002.

Parent Sues Over Quotas

A parent whose child was denied admission to a magnet school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., has filed a lawsuit claiming that the district's desegregation program is unconstitutional.

Bill Capacchione, who filed the suit Sept. 5 in federal district court in Charlotte, says his daughter was not accepted to the school because the district uses racial quotas in school assignments that classify students as black or non-black. His daughter, Cristina, is half-Guatemalan.

The 92,000-student district has been under a desegregation plan since 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school districts could voluntarily consider race in assigning children to schools for educational benefits.

"I think the school board's efforts to desegregate the schools have been appropriate and legal," the district's lawyer, Gil Middlebrooks, said.

L.A. Board Bans Indian Mascots From Schools

Responding to longstanding pressure from Native Americans, the Los Angeles school board voted last week to ban all Indian mascots and names used by schools in the nation's second-largest district.

The ban, approved by a 6-0 vote with one abstention, appears to affect three high schools and one middle school in the system. Of the district's 667,305 students, roughly 1,860 are American Indian.

School board members are giving the schools until the end of the school year to replace their Indian mascots. The district has also agreed to help pay for costs associated with the ban, such as stripping gymnasium floors or replacing band uniforms that bear the mascot or name.

"The message is this school district feels it's time to change and become more sensitive," said Socorro Serrano, a district spokeswoman.

Critics of the ban said that it was a waste of money and would damage school traditions. The mascots were never intended to offend, they said.

Louis Ramirez, who has served as the Birmingham High School Braves' athletic director for more than three decades, said many students and alumni at his school were disappointed.

"You don't pick as your mascot something you are embarrassed about or don't care for," Mr. Ramirez said. "And it's just everywhere in our school."

The Braves' mascot is depicted on Birmingham High's cafeteria walls and gym floor, and it covers athletic equipment and uniforms. Mr. Ramirez said estimates for ridding the school of the mascot run as high as $250,000.

The other mascots affected by the ban include the Mohicans of Gardena High School and the Warriors of University High School and Wilmington Middle School.


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