News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Set Clear Expectations, State Boards Told

State boards of education need a clear vision of what they want schools to accomplish, and they must connect fiscal policies to those visions, a report on school finance advises.

A study group convened by the National Association of State Boards of Education drafted the report over a period of 18 months. It was released last month at NASBE's national conference in Kiawah Island, S.C.

Since state education budgets are controlled by legislators and governors, the report urges state boards to work more closely with lawmakers to unite school finance decisions with educational goals. The boards must also hold local schools accountable for their performance and how well they manage their budgets, the report says.

Copies of "Financing Student Success: Beyond Equity and Adequacy" can be obtained for $10 each, plus $2 shipping, from NASBE, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, VA 22314; (800) 220-5183.

Eastin Recommends Test for Calif. Students

To comply with a new California law requiring statewide testing of students' basic skills, state Superintendent Delaine Eastin has reluctantly recommended a test to the state board of education for use this school year.

Ms. Eastin picked the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills/TerraNova, published by CTB/McGraw-Hill of Monterey, Calif., to be given to students in grades 2-11. That test won out over the Stanford Achievement Test, or SAT 9, published by San Antonio-based Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement, and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills from Riverside Publishing in Itasca, Ill.

All of the tests submitted were "seriously flawed, with the test content falling years below grade-level expectations," Ms. Eastin said in an Oct. 31 letter to the state board. Ms. Eastin said she selected TerraNova because it was relatively strong for the lower grade levels and because CTB tests are used by California districts now, perhaps allowing for easier comparisons of results.

The basic-skills test, which will give scores for individual students, is intended to supplement a new state assessment that will be created to reflect state academic standards now under development. The state board must vote on Ms. Eastin's recommendation by Nov. 14.

Texas Unveils Teacher-Recertification Plan

Texas teachers would have to complete 150 hours of continuing education every five years to be recertified, under a preliminary plan approved by the State Board for Educator Certification.

Texas does not now require continuing education for teachers. Statewide, school districts offer from seven hours a year of staff development to 13 full days, an official of the state board said. "We need to have a statewide standard," said Stephanie Korcheck, the board's director of policy and planning.

But state teachers' groups denounced the plan, approved last month, as a slap in the face to teachers who now have lifetime certificates. "This is about teachers being scapegoated for education's ills," said John Cole, the president of the Texas Federation of Teachers, the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

In a nod to teachers' concerns, the certification board reduced the number of continuing education hours from 200, as originally proposed. The plan is slated to come up for a final vote in March.

Survey: Revenue Caps Restrict Wis. Districts

Statewide revenue caps limiting how much Wisconsin school districts can take in each year have forced many superintendents to delay building-maintenance projects and put off buying new technology for their schools, according to a recent survey.

Forty percent of the state's superintendents who responded to the survey said they have had to delay or reduce the hiring of new staff members this year. Roughly 27 percent said they have had to increase teacher workloads and class sizes in their districts, the survey conducted by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and the Wisconsin Education Association Council found.

A 1993 state law caps school budget increases at $206 per student each year, and limits increases in salaries for teachers and administrators.

"It's had sort of a compounding affect through time," said Jeff Leverich, a research coordinator at the Wisconsin Education Association Council, an affiliate of the National Education Association, which is lobbying to end the limits.

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