03/1998 School Choice Roundup

Published March 1, 1998

California * Colorado * Illinois
Maryland * Minnesota * Wisconsin


Children Barred From Play

Instead of organizing themselves into teams for boisterous pick-up games of soccer, tag, and other activities before the start of their school day, pupils at an alternative elementary school in Capistrano, California, must now sit calmly and quietly on brown grocery sacks outside their classrooms until the first bell rings. Following complaints from teachers that it took too much effort to settle the children down to instructional tasks after their unsupervised games, administrators banned all early morning “monkey business.”

Arguing that children “more than ever, need this kind of free play,” sports psychologist Art Taylor told Education Week that other alternatives were available, such as using parent volunteers to monitor the students or having a short “winding-down” period just before school starts.
Education Week


Shakespeare Still Stirs Controversy

English teachers in Douglas County schools in Castle Rock, Colorado, may have to get permission from the principal before showing movie versions of Shakespearean plays to their students. Although a new school board policy permits only films rated PG or PG-13 to be shown in classes–which eliminates R-rated movies like “Platoon” and “Schindler’s List”–teachers must still seek the principal’s approval if they think any aspect of the work could be considered controversial.

“Shakespeare was meant to be acted and seen, not just read,” said Fran Henry, an English teacher at Douglas County High School. Henry had previously shown her students PG-13-rated versions of “Hamlet” and “Henry V,” but now, she told New York Times reporter Mindy Sink, “it’s not worth the trouble.”
The New York Times


Varied High School Diplomas Proposed

Instead of offering everyone the same standard high school diploma, student achievement might be improved by offering different classes of high school diplomas for different levels of student achievement. The proposal is one of several hundred offered by four committees in Maine Township High School District 207, serving students in Des Plaines and Park Ridge, Illinois. The idea has been considered by several other districts but has never been acted upon.

Under the proposal, an honors diploma would be awarded to the highest achieving graduates who take the most rigorous classes. Most students would get the second type of diploma, similar to what they receive now. Students whose attendance record and performance are poor would get a “certificate of attendance.”

Lou Walton, director of admissions and financial aid at the Schaumburg campus of Roosevelt University, questions the value of the new diplomas, telling Daily Herald reporter Vince Galloro that test scores and transcripts already give officials the information they need.
Daily Herald

Firing Appealed for 108 Day Absence

After missing 108 days of school during the 1996-97 school year, failing to provide documentation for why she was absent, and attending class only for the first two weeks this year, Schaumburg Elementary School District 54 music teacher Eileen Klayman was fired by the school board. Klayman is appealing her dismissal to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Chicago Tribune


Parents Demand Better Results

After receiving the results of Maryland’s annual assessment tests, which showed that the performance of Prince George’s County schools ranked 23rd out of 24 in the state, concerned leaders from three predominantly black middle-class communities gathered 200 parents, educators, and politicians together last December to discuss problems and solutions. The new coalition demanded better results from elected leaders and will push for new school construction, more parent volunteers in the schools, and more spending directed to the classrooms.

According to a new community survey, many residents are dissatisfied not only with the academic performance of their schools but also their financing, and are willing to raise taxes to support them. Three out of five support the end of 25 years of court-ordered busing for desegregation, and even more, four out of five, say that children should be allowed to attend the public school of their choice.
The Washington Post


Partnership for Educational Excellence

As a result of Governor Arne H. Carlson’s recent visit to Singapore on a business development mission, the State of Minnesota and the Singapore government are pursuing a partnership to promote education excellence. As well as establishing exchanges between teachers and administrators, the partnership will review the curriculum of both systems, create programs to support graduation standards in both Minnesota and Singapore, distribute learning material through the Internet, and participate in virtual classrooms.

“We are honored that Singapore, whose students are regarded as the best in the world, has turned to Minnesota for ideas on how to improve global learning,” Governor Carlson said. “This partnership will benefit both Minnesota and Singapore by sharing ideas which can improve our education systems.”

Carlson initiated the collaboration process in November 1997, when a contingent of Singapore educators visited Minnesota to learn how the state used technology to advance its graduation standards while maintaining flexibility through local curriculum and control. As a nation, Singapore regularly leads the world in student achievement, particularly in math and science.
Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development


Top Priority: Improving Public Education

Wisconsin’s citizens say “improving public education” is the issue most needing attention from their state government, according to the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s latest citizen survey. Twenty-six percent of survey respondents picked this issue from among five in July 1997, a dramatic increase over the 16 percent that picked the issue in November 1993, when “improving public education” ranked fourth in citizen priorities. In Milwaukee, 45 percent of black respondents to the survey said education was the most important issue, compared to 25 percent of white respondents.

In the latest survey, conducted on a sample of 1,000 Wisconsin residents by the Gordon S. Black Corp., tax reform, welfare reform, and combating crime all ranked lower than education as citizen priorities.
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Inc.