News in Brief: A National Roundup

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High School Completion Rises Slightly, U.S. Says

The high school completion rate for 18- to 24-year-olds has risen only slightly over the past three decades, despite an ever-sharpening focus on education issues over that same period, the U.S. Department of Education has reported.

New data analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics reveal that 86.5 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds who had left school in 2000 had completed the requirements for a high school diploma or its equivalent. The rate stood at 82.8 percent in 1972.

"The study is another indicator that we have not made enough progress in recent years to improve access to quality education and that comprehensive change is needed," Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in a statement.

Young adults in the Northeast and Midwest were more likely to complete high school than those living in the South and West, according to the study, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. About 89 percent of young adults in the Northeast and Midwest had completed high school, compared with 84.4 percent in the South and 85.5 percent in the West.

-Ann Bradley

369 Chicago Schools Land on State Warning List

More than three-quarters of Chicago's public elementary schools have been placed on a state warning list of troubled schools.

The 369 schools saw more than half their students fail to meet state standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests for two years in a row. Schools on the warning list are eligible to receive extra state funding, but must improve academically or face being shut down within four years.

"We have a long way to go," Arne Duncan, the chief executive officer of the 432,000-student system, said in reaction to the Nov. 14 announcement. "That's a lot of schools."

The state's 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th graders took the ISAT in April.

—Mark Stricherz

SAT-Takers Offered New Test After Answers Stuck in Mail

The sponsor of the SAT is missing 7,800 answer sheets that it suspects are warehoused in two New Jersey mail facilities contaminated with anthrax spores.

The College Board is notifying test-takers to offer them a full refund or the chance to retake the college-entrance exam on Dec. 1 or at a later date.

The answer sheets were filled in at 89 testing centers throughout the country on Oct. 13. The New York City-based College Board suspects they were routed through post offices in Princeton, N.J., and Trenton, N.J., that were closed once anthrax spores were discovered there.

The New Jersey post offices are near the headquarters of the Educational Testing Service, the agency that designs, administers, and scores the SAT for the College Board.

David J. Hoff

Cincinnati Girls Found Guilty in Plot to Poison Teacher

Two Ohio girls have been found guilty of attempting to poison their 6th grade teacher.

The students, ages 12 and 13, spiked their teacher's water bottle on May 10 with liquid drain cleaner. The teacher put the water in the refrigerator without drinking it because the bottle felt warm, according to police. The next day, the girls poured out the bottle's contents and threw it away.

The students, who attended Oyler Elementary School in Cincinnati at the time of the incident, were found guilty in juvenile court on Nov. 14 and are scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 28, a Cincinnati police spokeswoman said. They are to remain under electronic monitoring until sentencing, and could receive probation or be incarcerated until they turn 21.

Police originally charged four girls in the case, but charges were dismissed against a 14-year-old. Another 13-year-old pleaded guilty to participating in the poisoning attempt and testified against the two girls who were subsequently found guilty this month.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

N.Y.C. Schools Lift Ban on Student Field Trips

Children in New York City can resume taking field trips with their schools, Chancellor Harold Levy announced last week.

The board of education suspended all field trips for students in the city's five boroughs after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a step also taken by other districts across the nation.

To make the announcement, the chancellor joined the city's cultural-affairs commissioner and the president of the American Museum of Natural History for a press event at the museum, which is the city's No. 1 field-trip destination.

—Ann Bradley

Ga. Wants Atlanta Schools to Pay for Wasted Surplus Food

About 124 tons of government surplus food intended to be used for meals in the Atlanta public schools had to be thrown out after it spoiled.

The Georgia Department of Education has asked the 58,000-student Atlanta district to pay back the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the unused food.

Among the $200,000 of wasted food provided to the district by the federal surplus-food program through the USDA were ground turkey, cheese, and powdered milk. The food had been stored in a warehouse.

Christopher J. Hardwick, a spokesman for Aramark-Gourmet, the company that manages the Atlanta public schools' food-service program, said only that the food had to be discarded for "health and safety" reasons because it had not been used by the expiration date stamped on the products.

Patty Griffin, a spokeswoman for Aramark-Gourmet, said that company officials were in discussions with the district about who should foot the bill for the unused food. A spokesperson for the Atlanta district did not return phone calls.

—Lisa Fine

Alternative Schools Must Give Regents' Exams, Judge Rules

A New York state judge has ruled that a group of 28 schools, most of which are alternative schools located in New York City, can no longer be exempt from participating in the state's regents'examinations.

The Nov. 20 ruling by Judge Anthony Kane, in Albany, upheld an earlier decision by the state education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, that refused to extend a five-year waiver of the regents' exams.

But the consortium of schools, which are also located in Bedford, Ithaca, and Rochester, opposes that requirement because they argue that their performance assessments are more accurate. Their schools had lower dropout rates and sent more students to college than comparable schools using regents' exams, the consortium said in a statement.

Lawyers for the consortium plan to appeal the judge's decision.

—Michelle Galley

Nationally Certified Teachers in Va. to Receive Smaller Bonuses

Virginia's budget troubles will result in smaller-than-expected bonuses for the state's teachers who have earned national certification, state officials said last week.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced last week that 132 Virginia teachers have become newly certified, bringing the state's total to 278. Nationwide, the total number of certified teachers rose to 16,035 from about 9,500.

Initially, Virginia was to offer certified teachers one-time bonuses of $5,000, plus annual salary supplements of $2,500 for the 10-year life of the certificate. The state created the incentives in 1999.

But proposed increases in funding for the program were not enacted last spring because Virginia lawmakers failed to agree on an overall plan to adjust the state's biennial budget. As a result, the money available this year for the incentives wasn't enough to ensure the full bonuses for the growing cadre of board-certified teachers in the state.

One-time awards have been limited to $1,632, and the additional supplement to $816.

—Jeff Archer

Vol. 21, Issue 13, Page 4

Published in Print: November 28, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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