News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Judge Orders Increase For Baltimore Schools

The Baltimore public schools remain underfunded by the state, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge has ruled. He directed the parties in a long-running finance lawsuit to work out a plan that would give millions of dollars more to the financially strapped system.

Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan handed down his decision on Aug. 20 after four days of hearings in July, during which state education leaders argued that more efficient management, rather than more money, was needed in Baltimore.

But education advocates and parents represented by the American Civil Liberties Union said the city schools still lack adequate financial resources eight years after an agreement in which Maryland provided an additional $254 million to the district in exchange for more oversight of the system.

The judge sided with the ACLU and suggested that the city schools receive an additional $30 million to $45 million this school year. He ordered representatives from the state department of education, the city schools, and advocates for parents to return to court in a month with a spending plan.

The state board of education voted unanimously Aug. 25 to ask the state Court of Special Appeals to vacate the judge’s order.

—John Gehring

Pennsylvania School District Loses Round in Fight Over AYP Label

The Reading, Pa., school district has lost a round in its challenge to the way the state designates its schools as being in need of improvement.

A three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled Aug. 6 that the state acted appropriately when it listed 13 of the district’s 19 schools as not having made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The 16,000-student Reading district contended that the state had failed to provide enough money to enable native-language tests for its many Spanish-speakers. But the judicial panel agreed with the state secretary of education, who argued that federal law requires the state to do only as much as is practicable.

The district also challenged the size of the subgroups of students whose performance must be analyzed under the federal law, and it argued that the state had not provided enough technical help to facilitate school improvement. The court rejected both arguments.

The state department of education issued a statement saying it was pleased with the ruling. Richard L. Guida, the district’s lawyer, said he planned to appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

—Catherine Gewertz

N.Y.C. Slashes the Number Of 3rd Graders Held Back

Two months after test results showed that 11,700 New York City children could be forced to repeat 3rd grade this fall, city officials announced that fewer than 5,000 students will have to do so.

In a press conference on Aug. 18, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced that more than 4,200 pupils who had scored in the lowest of four levels on one or both citywide tests last spring had improved enough after summer school to be promoted to 4th grade.

Another 4,900 children still face having to repeat 3rd grade—close to the number retained last year, before the new promotion policy—because their scores did not improve enough on retesting to warrant promotion, officials said.

The original number of pupils facing retention also was whittled down by granting some students promotion through reviews of their classwork, and then by excluding special education students and English-language learners not covered by the policy.


Detroit Governance Question Prompts Immediate Lawsuit

Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan has signed a bill to let Detroit residents decide on Nov. 2 between two options for the governance of the city’s schools.

One proposed school board would have nine elected members and a chief executive officer nominated by the mayor and approved by the board. The mayor alone would have the authority to remove the schools chief.

The other option would be a "traditional" board with 11 elected members and no role for the mayor. ("Detroit Voters Face Options on School Board," April 14, 2004.)

Local activists, who said the bill was passed unconstitutionally, are seeking to strike the measure from the ballot. They filed a lawsuit on Aug. 6, two days after the state legislature agreed on the language.

—Tal Barak

Most Florida Schools Open Despite Hurricane Damage

Despite the damage caused by Hurricane Charley, which destroyed seven schools and severely damaged a number of others, most schools in affected Florida counties opened last week on time.

The Florida Department of Education estimated that the three hardest-hit school districts, in Charlotte, Desoto, and Hardee counties, would open no later than Aug. 30.

In all, 25 districts were affected by the hurricane, which hit the state Aug. 13. Of those, nine lost power and six will need portable classrooms and buses in order to reopen, state officials said. The state education department has secured 204 portable classrooms and 266 buses.

—Marianne D. Hurst


Student Incentives: The Kansas City, Mo., school district paid just over $1 million in bonuses to some 13,000 summer school students. Those earning grades of C or higher in all subjects received $75. The district also paid attendance incentives of $50, $65, and $75 for a full-day student who missed two days, missed one day, or had perfect attendance.

—Catherine A. Carroll

The Texas Education Agency has restored the 210,000-student Houston Independent School District’s "academically acceptable" rating, a year after the district came under scrutiny for the integrity of its data on students leaving school. The TEA cited improved training for school officials on keeping accurate records and the district’s use of auditors to check data as evidence of progress.


The District of Columbia school board has selected Clifford B. Janey as the 65,000-student district’s superintendent. Mr. Janey, 58, served as the superintendent of schools in Rochester, N.Y. from 1995 to 2002 and was most recently a vice president for education at the New York City-based Scholastic Inc.

—Karla Scoon Reid


Former U.S. Rep. William D. Ford, a longtime advocate of expanding educational opportunities and the chairman from 1991 to 1995 of what was then the House Education and Labor Committee, died on Aug. 14 of complications from a stroke. He was 77.

Mr. Ford, a Democrat from Ypsilanti Township, Mich., spent 30 years in Congress, and served on the education committee as early as 1965. He supported the passage of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act and later played a key role in helping to steer the 1994 reauthorization of the ESEA and President Clinton’s Goals 2000 legislation through Congress as the panel’s chairman.

He was the first member of his family to go to college, which he attended under the GI Bill of Rights after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In recognition of his role in creating the direct-loan program for college students, enacted in 1993, Congress named it after Mr. Ford.

— Erik W. Robelen

Theodore W. Clymer, a researcher best known for questioning the effectiveness of commonly taught phonics rules in early reading instruction, died on July 25 after a long illness. He was 77.

Mr. Clymer, a professor at the University of Minnesota, was the founder of the journal Reading Research Quarterly and served as the president of the International Reading Association in 1964-65.

His 1963 research on phonics generalizations found that most established rules were not useful. That work signaled a movement away from intensive phonics instruction and the use of more authentic literature to teach reading.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Bill Martin Jr.,, who helped generations of young children learn to read through the rhythmic language of his colorfully illustrated books, died Aug. 11, in Texas. He was 88 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Martin, a former school publishing executive, wrote more than 300 books. His best-known works, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, illustrated by Eric Carle, and Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, are considered children’s literary classics.


Wendell G. Mohling, the associate executive director for professional programs at the National Science Teachers Association, died Aug. 17 of complications from a stroke. He was 61.

—Ann Bradley

Theodore T. Alexander Jr., an associate superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District, died on July 31. Mr. Alexander, 66, oversaw efforts to desegregate schools in the city, among other duties. He had leukemia and had been recently hospitalized.


Charles O. Conrad,, who since 1991 had been the executive director of the Washington-based Organizations Concerned about Rural Education, died on Aug. 14 at 80. He suffered a stroke.

— A.B.

Vol. 24, Issue 1, Page 4

Published in Print: September 1, 2004, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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