News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Tesseract Group Seeks Chapter 11 Shield

Tesseract Group Inc., the nationally prominent school-management company once known as Education Alternatives Inc., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after months of mounting financial losses.

Tesseract Group Inc., the nationally prominent school-management company once known as Education Alternatives Inc., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after months of mounting financial losses.

The Phoenix-based company filed Oct. 6 for protection from its creditors, as did its child-care subsidiary, Sunrise Educational Services Inc. As Education Alternatives, the company once managed public schools in Dade County, Fla., and Baltimore and managed the entire Hartford, Conn., school system.

After the loss of those contracts, the company renamed itself and began to focus on charter schools and preschools. It operates four charter schools, four private schools, and 19 preschools, mostly in Arizona.

In recent months, Tesseract has closed schools, experienced management turnover, and faced increasing financial losses. Its stock was dropped from the NASDAQ market in February and was selling for 1 cent per share last week.

—Mark Walsh

Innovations Honored

Three school-related programs were honored last week with Innovations in American Government awards from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Washington-based Council for Excellence in Government.

Minnesota won for its pioneering legislation enacted in 1991 that provides funding and incentives to start charter schools.

A program called Perritech, run by Perry High School in the 1,980- student Perry, Ohio, district, was recognized for innovation in combining technology and a traditional curriculum.

Maryland's Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Project, which provides funding for renovating schools in older neighborhoods, among other purposes, also won.

The programs, which were among 10 winners chosen for the national recognition from an initial pool of more than 1,600 state and local initiatives, each received a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

—Vanessa Dea

Okla. Principal Placed on Leave

The principal of Stilwell (Okla.) High School has been placed on indefinite leave, following controversy over allegations of grade tampering.

The 1,570-student Stilwell district has been rocked this fall by the allegations involving Leon Hill. In September, the school board voted to admonish Mr. Hill, an action that prompted a 40-minute walkout on Sept. 25 by 250 of the high school's 630 students.

After a committee issued two reports substantiating the allegations, the board voted on Oct. 13 to put Mr. Hill on leave with pay, according to W. Neil Morton, the district superintendent.

The reports found apparent changes from records in teachers' grade books to students' transcripts, Mr. Morton said, and alleged that some students had received grades for classes not listed in the high school's curriculum.

Mr. Hill could not be reached for comment last week.

—Andrew Trotter

Indians Fight Bilingual Proposal

Children and leaders of at least six of Arizona's 21 federally recognized American Indian tribes held a march and rally in Phoenix this month to oppose a Nov. 7 statewide ballot measure that seeks to dismantle bilingual education in the public schools.

Characterizing the measure as an example of "educational fascism," Wayne Holm, an education specialist for the education division of the Navajo Nation, said Native Americans marched to ask voters to vote down the measure, known as Proposition 203.

He said the measure, which is aimed at children classified as having limited English proficiency, would hinder any serious efforts of tribes to teach their native languages in public schools. It could affect at least 9,600 Navajo children.

Proponents of Proposition 203 say, however, that they assume Indians would be able to invoke their federally recognized tribal sovereignty to override Proposition 203 and continue such instruction.

The Hopi and Pascua Yaqui tribes also passed resolutions opposing Proposition 203 this month, joining four other Arizona tribes.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Parent Guilty of Vandalism

An irate parent who was accused of hiring a hauling service to dump a truckload of horse manure in front of the Henrico County, Va., school board offices has been found guilty of vandalism.

Clyde Wilson Sr. admitted to the misdemeanor, but claimed it was an act of civil disobedience, according to his lawyer, Carolyn Grady.

According to the Richmond Times- Dispatch, Mr. Wilson's son, Clyde Wilson Jr., was hit on the head with a metal stool last May by his electronics teacher at Highland Springs Technical Center. The student was suspended for five days for unsafe conduct and using profanity.

The suspension later was removed from the student's record, and the teacher, a substitute, was fired and charged with misdemeanor assault, the paper said.

Janet Bends, a spokeswoman for the 41,600-student district in suburban Richmond, said officials took appropriate action.

—Michelle Galley

Urban Alliance To Move

The National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, founded in 1991 by the College Board and Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City, is moving to a new home.

The alliance, which has focused on professional development for teachers, will open a national office in Washington housed at the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy organization for the nation's large urban districts. The council's members have worked closely with the alliance.

In addition, the alliance is establishing an academic office at the University of Georgia in Atlanta. The focus of its work will be engaging research universities in the improvement of urban education.

—Ann Bradley

Immunizations Said Lacking

Thousands of Baltimore public school students who haven't been properly immunized against childhood diseases could be barred from attending classes this week.

The city health department sent letters home with students on Oct. 17, notifying parents and guardians that their children must get immunized before they could return to school.

Nearly 2,800 students in the 107,000-student district have yet to be vaccinated, according to the department, while another 600 do not have immunization records on file with their schools. Most of the students are in kindergarten or 1st grade.

The city has maintained one of the highest rates of immunization among big cities, with 99.8 percent rate of compliance in 1998, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national immunization survey.

—Adrienne D. Coles

AFT Faults Edison Results

Students in public schools managed by Edison Schools Inc. for the most part do not outperform students in comparable schools, according to an analysis of achievement data released last week by the American Federation of Teachers.

For More Information

Read the AFT report, "Trends in Student Achievement For Edison Schools, Inc.: The Emerging Track Record." (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

The AFT, which has been critical of for-profit management of public schools, looked at state or district test results for 40 Edison schools with at least two years of data available. It says the New York City-based company has a "mediocre" record.

In Kansas, for example, where Edison runs three schools, math and reading performance in two of the schools is the same as or lower than the achievement levels in comparable schools. In the third, reading performance is better than in comparable schools, the analysis says, but is about the same in mathematics.

The AFT recommends that districts hiring Edison or other management companies conduct their own evaluations of student achievement.

John E. Chubb, Edison's chief education officer, said in a statement that the report was "political diatribe dressed up in the guise of science."

"The report has no methodological merit," he added. "It is replete with stunning omissions of facts when those facts fail to support the author's agenda."

—Mark Walsh

Vol. 20, Issue 8, Page 4

Published in Print: October 25, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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