News in Brief: A National Roundup

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NAEYC to Accredit Teacher-Prep Programs

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, which already runs an accreditation program for early-childhood centers, has devised a system to recognize excellent associate’s-degree programs that are preparing early-childhood teachers.

The Washington-based organization is working with six states during a start-up phase of the new accreditation program for community colleges and other two- year institutions. Leaders of the group are calling it "a key step in raising the quality of early-childhood programs," according to a press release issued last week.

Associate’s degrees are a significant part of preparation for early-childhood teachers. Many states require preschool teachers to hold two- year degrees, as does the federal Head Start program. Many teachers also earn associate’s degrees as a step toward four-year degrees. Currently, though, no mechanism exists for determining whether those two-year programs are meeting national standards.

The NAEYC accreditation program will build on existing standards for what well-prepared graduates of two-year colleges should know and be able to do.

Colleges in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and South Carolina will field-test the process, which will eventually be nationwide.

—Linda Jacobson

Baltimore Reduces Credits Needed for 9th Grade Promotion

In an effort to reduce the number of 9th graders dropping out of high school, the Baltimore school board has voted to reduce the number of credits they must have to be promoted to the next grade.

Beginning next year, 9th graders will need to complete four credits, in the core subjects of English, mathematics, social studies, and science, to be promoted. Currently, seven credits are required.

Frank DeStefano, the director of high schools for the 90,000- student system, said the change came as part of a broader vote to begin aligning the district’s curricula with Maryland standards that are measured by new state high school exams.

Thirty-six percent of the 9th graders in Baltimore’s public schools drop out, Mr. DeStefano said, and the promotion- policy change is intended to reflect national research that shows that when students stay in school beyond the freshman year, they are five times more likely to graduate.

The school board voted unanimously on May 25 to adopt the policy.

—John Gehring

Indianapolis School Board Votes to Ban Paddling

The Indianapolis school board has abolished corporal punishment in its schools.

The May 25 vote officially prohibits a form of punishment that most schools in the 40,000- student district had already phased out.

But when two teachers were suspended for paddling six 3rd grade boys in March, district leaders began to re-examine the practice, according to The Indianapolis Star. Both teachers have since been cleared of wrongdoing and have resumed teaching, the newspaper reported.

Indianapolis officials said the ban was in line with a national trend to eliminate corporate punishment in schools. The Pennsylvania state board of education has approved a ban on the practice, but it is not yet final. The Memphis school district is reviewing its policy. ("Review of Corporal Punishment Hits Nerve in Memphis," April 14, 2004.)

—Catherine Gewertz

Chicago Teachers to Vote In Union Runoff Election

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union will decide whether to re-elect President Deborah Lynch or go with her strongest challenger in a June 11 runoff.

Ms. Lynch polled 42 percent of the 21,439 votes cast in a rare four-way contest for the leadership of the union on May 21. Special education teacher Marilyn Stewart came in second with 31 percent, according to union figures. Two other candidates got 20 percent and 7 percent of the vote respectively, the figures show.

Union rules require that a president be elected with the support of more than half those voting.

Ms. Stewart, a member of the union faction that Ms. Lynch defeated three years ago, has lambasted her opponent for negotiating what Ms. Stewart sees as an inferior deal under the teachers’ contract narrowly approved last November. Ms. Stewart has also argued that the incumbent has involved the union too deeply in school improvement efforts.

—Bess Keller

Kent, Wash., Schools Advised To Stop Handcuffing Students

A Seattle- area school district has been advised to discontinue its policy of allowing security officers to use handcuffs on unruly students.

Superintendent Barbara Grohe of the Kent, Wash., schools appointed an independent panel on April 14 to review the district’s safety operations and procedures. The district is facing nearly $50 million in damage claims for allegedly allowing its security officers to use excessive force and practice racial discrimination in restraining youngsters. ("Excessive Force Used on District’s Students, NAACP Local Alleges," April 14, 2004.)

On May 25, the four-person committee presented the school board with a list of recommended changes, some of which the superintendent said have been in place for some time or are already being implemented.

The panel also recommended that the district discontinue the use of security officers to respond to "classroom-management issues" and that it rely on the local police department for emergency situations.

The 15 claims against the district have all been filed by the Seattle branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on behalf of black students.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

School Fitness Foundation Files for Bankruptcy Protection

The National School Fitness Foundation, an American Fork, Utah-based nonprofit group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week.

The group made the filing in federal bankruptcy court on June 1, the same day it appeared in a Minnesota court over an order to stop doing business in that state. The foundation is under investigation in that state for running an alleged "Ponzi" or pyramid scheme. The group has denied any wrongdoing.("Risk Seen in Deals Offered by Fitness Group," March 17, 2004.)

The foundation charges districts between $112,000 and $220,000 for its L.I.F.T. fitness program, then repays the districts from money it says it gets from donations and grants.

However, Minnesota government officials say the foundation’s income comes from School Fitness Systems, which is also based in American Fork and is closely related to the foundation.

No criminal charges have been filed against the foundation.

—Rhea R. Borja

Vol. 23, Issue 39, Page 4

Published in Print: June 9, 2004, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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