News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Mass. Reinstates Teacher Bonuses

Massachusetts has reinstated a "master teacher" program that gives veteran educators bonuses of up to $50,000 over 10 years for mentoring new teachers.

The program, which had been paid for since 1998 by interest from a $70 million Teacher, Principal, and Superintendent Quality Enhancement Endowment, was suspended in June because of plunging returns on interest rates from the fund's investments.

Teachers qualify for the bonus by completing a rigorous process to receive certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The program boasted 201 master teachers in the 2001-02 school year.

Nationally certified teachers who work with new teachers are awarded annual $5,000 bonuses for up to 10 years under the program.

State lawmakers have approved legislation that amends the rules of the endowment to allow the state department of education to spend $3.6 million annually to support the program.

—John Gehring

Anti-Bullying Program Suspended In West Virginia

The West Virginia board of education has voted to suspend a statewide anti-bullying project that has been used in the state since 1999.

Controversy erupted recently over the Civil Rights Team Project, which was developed by the state attorney general's office for schools as a way to get students to promote tolerance and discourage all types of bullying. The action by the state school board came in response to accusations from community members and outside activists who contend that the program promotes homosexuality.

The American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based Christian organization, says in a flier that the West Virginia program advocates the acceptance of homosexuality, cites homophobic slurs as an example of harassment, and encourages students to use the words lesbian, gay, and bisexual in positive ways.

About 20 schools out of a total of 798 schools statewide have participated in the anti-bullying program at one point in the past three years, according to Liza Cordeiro, a spokeswoman for the state department of education.

State school board members and officials from the department of education will form a task force to examine the program— which is modeled on a statewide program in Maine—and determine if it should be continued.

—Michelle Galley

Study: Minnesota Tests Mean Extra Year For Many

A new study by Minnesota researchers found that the state's new high school graduation requirements have not prompted more students to drop out. But they also found that students often need an extra year to pass graduation tests.

The study, released earlier this month by the Office of Educational Accountability at the University of Minnesota, tracked graduation rates in 2000, the first year that Minnesota required public school students to pass the Minnesota Basic Skills Tests to graduate.

"A lot of people anticipated the graduation rates would go down, but it was really nice to see that they didn't," said Ernest C. Davenport, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Minneapolis and a primary author of the study.

Mr. Davenport said it appeared that schools placed a renewed emphasis on the tasks measured by the basic-skills tests and made "extraordinary efforts" to push students to become competent in those areas.

Mr. Davenport also said his research found that though dropout rates remained steady compared with years before the tests became a graduation requirement, by 2001 more students were staying in school an additional year to meet the requirements. "It shows that students are persisting," he said.

—Michelle R. Davis

Arizona Judge Reverses School Budget Cuts

A judge has ordered Arizona lawmakers to restore $90 million for school facilities that was cut from the current state budget.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke ruled on Oct. 17 that the legislature must put back the money—the third reversal in budget cuts he has ordered this fiscal year. The state was expected to appeal.

The judge acknowledged that Arizona faces major budget troubles, like many other states, but said the state constitution still requires "a general and uniform" school system. Cuts for school construction and reno vation would unduly hurt smaller, rural districts, according to the judge.

Republican Gov. Jane Dee Hull said in a statement that she was disappointed by the judge's decision. She urged changes in state law that would limit the age of school buildings to 30 years, but suggested that the current school facilities law allows "overstated" estimates of how much should be spent for construction and renovations.

—Alan Richard

Vol. 22, Issue 9, Page 24

Published in Print: October 30, 2002, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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