Current Events: Roundup
A Meaningless Term
After examining the 1990 and 1992 math results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a researcher for the Educational Testing Service has determined that students' grade levels mean little when it comes to mathematics achievement. The researcher, Paul Barton, charted the performance of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders on the same proficiency scale. He found that 4th graders who scored highest on the tests-- specifically, those who fell in the 75th percentile--were about even with 8th graders who scored toward the lower end of the scale. The scores of those 4th graders also paralleled those of 12th graders who ranked near the bottom. "In some sense, then, the term 'grade level' is meaningless in the United States,'' Barton writes in the summer issue of the company's newsletter, ETS Policy Notes, "for it tells little about what students know and can do.''
Still A Teacher
A Wisconsin English teacher who won a record $111 million lottery this past summer returned to work last month. Leslie Robins, who teaches at Sabish Junior High School in Fond du Lac, said he would donate his $35,000 salary to the school. The teacher also asked his colleagues to present him with a "wish list'' for things the school needs.
A New Mexico judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent a school district in the state from educating Mexican students free of charge. In a ruling in August, Judge Thomas Cornish Jr. said state law allows the Deming public schools to educate children who live in Mexico without charging them tuition. "This court will not interfere with the purely discretionary decisions of the school board,'' the judge said. Two local residents sought to bar the district from enrolling the children because they said the practice leads to tax increases. [See "Crossing The Line,'' May/June.] Cornish, who called educating the children "a legitimate public purpose,'' suggested the angry taxpayers attempt to alter the composition of the local school board.
A New Jersey state appellate court has upheld a ruling that administrators at Clearview Regional Junior High School violated the rights of Brien Desilets when they censored the 13-year-old student's reviews of two R-rated movies from a school newspaper. In its ruling, the court relied on the New Jersey constitution but also said such censorship violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and does not comport with the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier, which gave public schools broad authority to censor student newspapers. The district plans to appeal the decision. Mark Goodman of the Student Press Law Center says the case could have national impact since this is the first decision since Hazelwood in which school officials have not met the federal standard for censoring student publications.
A bipartisan watchdog agency in California has concluded that the state department of education has been harming language-minority children with its "single-minded'' emphasis on native-language instruction. In a report released this past summer, the 13-member Little Hoover Commission, which was established by statute, called the department's approach to educating limited-English-proficient students "divisive, wasteful, and unproductive.'' As a result of the state's approach, the report says, many students do not receive needed services, too few students learn English, and Hispanic students are disproportionately likely to drop out of school. The report recommends that the state give localities more leeway in selecting methods for teaching LEP students, revise funding mechanisms to reward schools for helping students attain English proficiency, and better document the use of state funds for LEP students.
Superintendent Walter Amprey of the Baltimore public schools would like to see additional schools in his district run by Education Alternatives Inc., a for-profit firm. Amprey terms the operation of nine district schools by EAI this past school year a success [see "Bullish On Schools,'' April] but says the district will solicit public opinion before deciding whether to expand the number. Mayor Kurt Schmoke has urged the district to forestall such action, arguing that it is too soon to judge the success of the firm's efforts. The Baltimore Teachers Union has been highly critical of EAI's operation of the nine schools and is likely to fight any effort to entrust other schools to the Minneapolis-based firm.