News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Nontraditional Candidates in N.Y.C. Post Top Scores

Aspiring New York City teachers in a special program passed a licensure exam at much higher than the usual rate for both the state and the city's major producer of teachers.

Of the 332 candidates in New York state's first program to provide an alternative route to teacher licensure, 96 percent passed the liberal arts and sciences exam they took last month, according to district officials.

The statewide passing rate on the other administrations of the test during the past school year was 76 percent, and 57 percent among those who had received their teaching preparation at the City University of New York, a state testing official said.

Before they could enter the classroom, the alternative-program candidates had to take two tests, the second in the subjects they would be teaching. Of the 332 candidates, 290 passed both exams, according to district officials.

The alternative-route teachers were specifically recruited to fill vacancies in the city's most troubled schools. They were selected from among more than 2,000 applicants. Many are changing careers.

—Bess Keller

Charges Won't Bar S.C. Player

A high school football player charged in connection with a fatal automobile accident will not be barred from playing with his Easley, S.C., team, according to school officials.

Officials of the 15,500-student Pickens County district, which includes the town of Easley, said they did not consider dropping Christopher Nathan Dillard, 17, because he had broken no school or team rules.

Mr. Dillard was charged last month with reckless homicide after his vehicle collided with that of a 45-year-old woman, who was killed.

But the decision by administrators including Bill Houston, the principal of Easley High School, has stirred controversy in the small town. Last month, administrators at Spartanburg (S.C.) High School barred a standout football player from enrolling after he was charged with the kidnapping and assault of a 13-year-old girl.

The Spartanburg player's family then moved to Greenville, S.C., near Easley, hoping he could play for a high school there, but officials of the South Carolina High School League declared him ineligible because it has a rule forbidding ineligible players from transferring to a new district and playing. A state judge last week upheld the league's decision.

League officials have not intervened in Mr. Dillard's case, since local districts set their own rules for participation.

—Bess Keller

Maker Recalls Bus Brakes

School districts nationwide checked the brakes on their buses last week in the wake of a recall of bus brake systems.

The Bendix Corp. in Elyria, Ohio, a maker of anti-lock brake systems, based notified 13 bus and truck manufacturers that some of its brakes systems have a defect. About 46,000 buses and coaches were affected by the recall, including more than 6,000 Thomas Built school buses.

Debi Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the Freightliner Corp., the Portland, Ore.-based parent company of Thomas Built Buses Inc., said Bendix reported dozens of incidents of brake failures, though not all of them involved school buses.

Repair kits are being manufactured and will be shipped starting in mid-September.

More than 418,000 school buses carry 24 million children to and from school each year, according to the National School Transportation Association.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Children of Prisoners on Rise

The number of American children who have an incarcerated parent is rising, according to U.S. Justice Department statistics. Almost 1.5 million children under age 18 had a parent in federal or state prison in 1999—an increase of more than 500,000 children since 1991, the department reported in August.

The percentage of prisoners who are parents, however, has remained steady over time. Last year, the figure was 56 percent, compared with 57 percent in 1991.

Most imprisoned parents—93 percent—are men, as are most prisoners. Still, the report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that more than 126,000 children with incarcerated parents have a mother in prison, a 98 percent increase since 1991.

Mothers in prison report that they have more weekly contact with their children—by phone, mail, or in person—than imprisoned fathers do. But a majority of both fathers and mothers in state prison said they had not had personal visits with their children since their admission, the study found.

—Linda Jacobson

Columbus OKs Teacher-Pay Plan

District and union leaders in Columbus, Ohio, have agreed to work together to design a performance-based teacher-pay plan for the 65,000-student school system.

According to a new three-year contract approved by the school board last week, $2,000-a-year bonuses will be awarded to individual teachers based on their students' achievement beginning next fall. Members of the Columbus Education Association approved the contract 2,662 to 74 last month.

The bonus system will be voluntary, however, and what types of measurements will be used— and how—have not been determined. A panel is set to hash out those details by next spring.

The Columbus union's ratification of the deal came less than two months after its parent union, the National Education Association, strengthened its stand against performance-based pay—an action that does not prevent NEA locals from opting on their own to experiment with innovative pay plans. ("NEA Delegates Take Hard Line Against Pay for Performance," July 12, 2000.)

—Jeff Archer

Poll: Teen Drug Use Declining

Teenage drug use continued its decline last year, according to the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education survey for 1999-2000.

Researchers for the Atlanta-based organization, known as PRIDE, found that illicit drug use among students in grades 6 through 12 had dropped 12.9 percent, from 27.1 percent to 23.6 percent, since the previous school year.

The overall use of alcohol among teenagers fell from 56.8 percent to 53.3 percent. And the number of students who said they had smoked cigarettes in the past year dropped from 37.9 percent to 32 percent.

More than 114,000 students in 24 states participated in the annual survey. The results are available on the web at

—Adrienne D. Coles

Bill To Create L.A. Monitor Dies

A bill that would have placed the Los Angeles Unified School District under state control has died in the California legislature.

Sponsored by state Sen. Richard Polanco, a Los Angeles Democrat, the measure would have required the state department of education to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the district. The monitor, working with state officials, would have established academic goals for the district to meet in order to avoid a state-driven reorganization of the 723,000-student school system.

The bill, which passed the Senate by one vote, reached the Assembly rules committee but died without a hearing at the end of last month's session.

Fabian Nuñez, the district's director of legislative and government affairs, said the bill to institute a state monitor "leaves a bad taste in your mouth about intrusiveness."

The district's new superintendent, Roy Romer, should be given the opportunity to address the district's problems, Mr. Nuñez said.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Papers' Creators Rapped

Two 12th graders who handed out an unauthorized parody newspaper at Lawrence (Kan.) High School last month were kept home by their parents for the next two school days, after the parents were advised to do so by the principal of the 1,300-student school.

The parody, Low Budget, featured articles sending up school administration policies. It also lampooned national politics, the Pope, and a pornographic film.

Principal Dick Patterson said the paper was disruptive because its name and logo could be easily confused with the official student paper, The Budget, which had not yet published its first edition of the school year.

He said the school board of the 10,305-student Lawrence district had prohibited "the distribution of unauthorized publications on school grounds."

One of the two students, Brad Quellhorst, acknowledged via e-mail that the principal could legally stop distribution on campus, but added, "A myriad of Supreme Court cases protects the right to publish outside of school, and we intend to exercise them."

—Andrew Trotter

Vol. 20, Issue 2, Page 4

Published in Print: September 13, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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