News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Mich. Adopts New Terms For Proficiency Testing
After months of deliberation, the Michigan state school board has adopted a new scale for rating juniors who take the state's controversial high school proficiency test.
The board voted May 7 in favor of a plan to create four achievement levels of test performance. The levels will be represented by numeric rankings on students' transcripts.
The first three levels will also be a state endorsement that tells college officials and others who see the transcripts that the students have acquired at least basic education skills.
The four levels are: 1, endorsed, exceeded Michigan standards; 2, endorsed, met Michigan standards; 3, endorsed, basic level; and 4, not endorsed.
State policymakers were forced to change the test after hundreds of parents refused to let their children take the exam last year, arguing that it was too punitive and vague. The old test rated students as proficient, not-proficient, and novice.
"Anything that wasn't proficient was reported as failing, which wasn't the intent," said Kathleen Straus, the president of the state board.
"We're hoping this will be clearer," she added.
Indiana To Pay for PSAT
Gov. Frank L. O'Bannon has set aside $630,000 of existing state funds to pay for Indiana students to take the Preliminary SAT free of charge.
The Democratic governor wants to make sure that the $8.73 cost to take the PSAT doesn't keep any students from signing up for the exam. But even more, said Phil Bremen, the governor's press secretary, Mr. O'Bannon wants to send a message to students that the PSAT is important.
The test, which will be given in October, is a practice test for the SAT college-entrance exam. Indiana students who take the PSAT before the SAT typically score 12 or 13 percentage points higher on the SAT than students who don't take the preliminary test, according to information provided by the College Board to the state's commission for higher education. A similar trend is also true nationally, the Board said.
Mr. Bremen said students who improve their SAT scores stand a better chance of being accepted by the colleges of their choice and receiving scholarships.
In April, Gov. O'Bannon set aside $5 million for remedial instruction for high school sophomores who did not pass the ISTEP-Plus, the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress assessment. Students must pass the test before graduation.
Utah Accord Reached
Utah and the federal government have reached an agreement that could bring to an end decades of rancor over the fate of school trust lands locked up in federal reserves in the state.
Gov. Michael O. Leavitt of Utah and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt signed the agreement May 8 in Salt Lake City. Under the pact, which still must be approved by Congress, Utah will turn over 377,000 acres of school trust lands to the federal government for $50 million in cash and about 139,000 acres of federal lands elsewhere.
The $50 million, as well as revenues from coal or development of the other federal lands, will go to a state school trust fund.
The agreement includes 177,000 acres of school trust lands in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which President Clinton created by executive authority in 1996 to the dismay of state officials. They feared the loss of revenue to the state school trust fund from oil and coal development on some land included in the monument.
Iowa School Bill Vetoed
Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa has vetoed major portions of a school bill sent to him by the legislature. The governor said it fell far short of the reform measure he envisioned.
The May 8 action leaves the fate of much of the legislation uncertain. Mr. Branstad, a Republican, has threatened to call a special session to produce an augmented bill. But GOP leaders in the Republican-controlled legislature have declared that they have done all they can with the governor's proposal and that they are considering a special session to override the veto.
Among the rejected provisions are a $9 million effort to give local schools block grants for primary education programs and $4 million to speed funding to schools with growing enrollments. In all, Mr. Branstad vetoed $17.4 million of a $24 million package.
Mr. Branstad has charged that the merit-pay provisions in the bill are weak and that proposals he made to bolster teacher education were ignored.
Vol. 17, Issue 36, Page 23