News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Massachusetts OKs Graduation Certificate

Massachusetts will allow school districts to give state-endorsed certificates to students who meet local graduation requirements, even if they have not passed the state graduation exams.

The state board of education voted 8-1 recently to adopt a "certificate of attainment" that local school boards can award students who, after three attempts, do not pass the English and mathematics sections of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

Students must pass the exams to graduate with a diploma, beginning this school year.

Though new certificates will not be diplomas, students who receive them will be eligible for admission to state community college programs and some branches of the military. The state also has asked the U.S. Department of Education to give eligibility for federal college aid to students who receive the certificates. ("Mass. Seeks Exception to College-Aid Rule," News in Brief, this issue.)

Supporters see the certificates as important to recognizing the work of students. Critics see them as a way for education officials to deflect attention from some 12,000 seniors at risk of not graduating because they haven't passed the MCAS.

—John Gehring

Algebra Questions Added To Indiana's Graduation Test

Indiana's state board of education will add algebra questions to the state graduation exam, starting in 2004. The change will affect students now in the 8th grade.

The board added algebra to reflect the new mathematics standards Indiana adopted in 2000, said Jeff Zaring, the administrator for the state board of education.

About 30 percent of the math questions on the new test will involve algebra. Because the state hasn't set a cutoff score for the test, he said, it's not possible to say whether a student who missed all of the algebra questions but correctly answered the other questions would pass.

Indiana is taking steps to ensure that all students at least have had pre-algebra by the time they take the exam.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Federal Judge Sends Mass. Case to State Court

A federal judge has decided that a lawsuit challenging Massachusetts' state exams belongs in the state court system.

The suit was filed in September on behalf of six students who flunked the portion of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System that is required for high school graduation. ("Massachusetts Sued Over Graduation Tests," Oct. 2, 2002.)

At issue is whether the graduation requirement violates another state law that says educators can use multiple methods to determine educational progress.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor announced Dec. 2 that he would not take action in the case because too many state issues were involved. The plaintiffs are expected to refile their motion soon in a state court.

"We're glad to see it's being moved in the proper venue," said Heidi Perlman, a spokeswoman for the state department of education, the defendant.

—Joetta L. Sack

Russo Bows Out of Contention For Florida Education Job

Carmen V. Russo, the chief executive officer of the Baltimore school district, has withdrawn her name from the list of finalists to head Florida's K-12 school system.

Carmen V. Russo

Ms. Russo, who is in the third year of a four-year contract in Baltimore, said she decided to stay put and finish the initiatives she helped start. Her candidacy for Florida's new position of chancellor for K-12 schools was announced in September.

In stepping down from consideration for that post, Ms. Russo, a former associate superintendent of schools in Broward County, Fla., cited delays in the search process.

"We're at a pivotal point, and I don't wish to have the unforeseen delays in Florida impact our school system's efforts," she said in a statement. The state board of education and Secretary of Education Jim Horne have extended the search indefinitely to find more candidates, a board spokeswoman said.

—Robert C. Johnston

New Georgia Teachers Come With Guarantees

Georgia teachers who are not meeting their school districts' expectations during their first two years on the job can be sent back to college for additional training, under a state policy that went into effect this school year.

The guarantee, which was approved by the Georgia board of regents in 1998 as part of a broad plan to improve teacher education programs, applies to new teachers who graduated last spring from the state universities. Districts can take advantage of the guarantee only if teachers are teaching in the fields for which they were trained.

According to the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the program appears to be the first statewide effort of its kind.

A district that decides a teacher is ineffective will work with the university the teacher attended to design an improvement plan.

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 22, Issue 15, Page 15

Published in Print: December 11, 2002, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
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