News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Calif. Panel Urges 'Tiered' Licensing for State's Teachers

California should create a two-tiered system of licensing teachers, with an entry-level credential for beginning teachers and another for those who have taught for at least two years, a state advisory panel has concluded.

All new teachers, regardless of whether they have gone through a traditional or alternative training program, should also have to pass a performance assessment of their teaching skills and take part in a two-year induction program before becoming eligible for a second-level license, the panel, which was named by the state's teacher-credentialing commission, recommended in a report last month.

To renew their licenses, which California teachers must do every five years, the panel said teachers should meet personalized professional-development goals that become more sophisticated as their careers advance.

Other proposals include reintroducing education courses at the undergraduate level to enable students to start teaching right after college instead of having to complete a postgraduate year of study.

The credentialing commission is reviewing the panel's recommendations, some of which would require legislative action.

Silber Backs Off Exam Idea

Without the support of influential Massachusetts lawmakers, state school board Chairman John R. Silber appears to have backed away from his proposal for a high school graduation exam.

At the state school board's November meeting, Democratic Rep. Harold M. Lane Jr., a co-chairman of the legislature's joint education committee, asked board members to abandon a plan to adopt such a high-stakes exam.

Instead, he said, they should concentrate on implementing the state's wide-ranging Education Reform Act of 1993, which requires that public schools adopt high academic standards and administer tests in core subject areas to 4th, 8th, and 10th graders.

Mr. Silber told a Boston Globe reporter after the meeting that a "sit-down, drag-out fight over [the exam] with the chairman of the education committee and the Senate president" would not be prudent.

Both standards and assessments are now being phased in at Massachusetts schools. Testing is expected to be fully phased in by the 1999-2000 school year.

The graduation exam, which the reform measure does not mandate, was proposed by Mr. Silber last year and endorsed by acting Gov. Paul Cellucci earlier this fall.

N.M. Gov. Unveils Voucher Plan

Gov. Gary E. Johnson has outlined a plan for school reform in New Mexico that includes tuition vouchers for the state's poorest children.

Under the Republican governor's plan, which he intends to put before the legislature when it convenes in January, such scholarships would be given to the poorest families to be used at religious or secular private schools. Voucher proposals in recent years have failed in New Mexico's Democratic-dominated legislature.

Details on the plan are not yet available, a spokeswoman for the governor said last week. But in a recent news release, Mr. Johnson emphasized that he seeks to expand public and private school options for all parents in the state over the next five years.

"I want better schools in every neighborhood," he said in the Nov. 5 release. "And if your school isn't working for your child, you should have the choice of going to another one."

Mr. Johnson's plan also includes a call for expanding the state's network of charter schools, increasing public school funding, aiding preschool programs, and testing children in every grade each year.

Surplus Eyed for Technology

Prompted by fears that their state may be falling behind in education technology, Rhode Island leaders unveiled a $3.4 million school technology plan this month.

The money would be distributed to schools based on need, as determined by the state's technology task force, a bipartisan group of state and business leaders assembled last summer.

To qualify for the aid, school districts would be required to have in place a technology advisory committee, made up of teachers, administrators, and parents. The committees would be responsible for assessing schools' technology needs and arranging purchases.

The new funds, which would come from an accumulated surplus of dollars in the state budget, could be put toward hardware, software, and wiring.

Affirmative Action Ban Sought

An Ohio lawmaker was set to introduce a proposed constitutional amendment this week that would outlaw affirmative action in awarding government contracts and admitting students to state universities.

The announcement by Republican Sen. W. Michael Wise came one week after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging California's Proposition 209, which barred preferential treatment by state and local governments on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

Sen. Wise said he would also propose a bill that would end the state's minority-business-enterprise program, which funnels 15 percent of all state contracts for goods and services to minorities.

If three-fifths of Ohio's lawmakers approve the proposed amendment, it would be placed on the ballot next November.

Supporters of the proposal say that college admissions should be based solely on merit, while opponents say the ban would take away valuable programs aimed at providing equal opportunities for women and minorities.

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