July 10-13

Parents to file suit to ease school transfers in New Jersey (Philadelphia Inquirer): New Jersey parents plan to file a lawsuit against the state and several poor-performing school districts today for the right to let their children transfer to other schools. The suit is a proposed class action on behalf of 60,000 students in 96 failing schools in 25 districts where most students have missed the mark on state tests for at least two consecutive years. If the lawsuit is successful, students in such schools could switch to the public or private school of their choice, and their home school district would have to pay for it.

Year-round education in Iowa (Des Moines Register): An Urbandale (Iowa) school will launch a year-round schedule later this month, which will put at least 18 Iowa schools on the extended calendar. Supporters say year-round education helps students retain what they've learned, while critics say it causes scheduling headaches. Year-round schools trade an abbreviated summer vacation for extra time off in the fall and spring.

San Diego school board revokes charter (San Diego Union-Tribune): Less than a year after the opening of A. Phillip Randolph Leadership Academy, the taxpayer-funded charter school has been shut down by the San Diego school board. Audits by the district found financial mismanagement and failure to comply with state laws. The school had received about $400,000 in public money and failed to properly document and justify much of its expenses, auditors reported.

Ten Massachusetts schools lengthen days (The Boston Globe): A trial program supported by Gov. Mitt Romney, but opposed by some teachers and parents, will extend the school day for 10 schools in five cities in Massachusetts. The governor signed a state budget Saturday that includes $6.5 million for “Expanded Learning Time” that would add one hour and 45 minutes to three hours a day of instruction and enrichment programs for students at selected schools. Under the program, the school day must be extended by at least 30 percent for every student. An outside consulting firm will evaluate the program.

Teachers needed in Hawaii (The Honolulu Advertiser): The Department of Education is scrambling to hire hundreds of new teachers to staff classrooms in Hawaii, with only two weeks left before the start of a new school year. Superintendent Pat Hamamoto says she expects some classrooms will have to rely on substitutes. Hawaii’s 258 public schools usually need 1,300 to 1,500 new teachers a year, which is a challenge because of the nationwide teacher shortage, Hawaii’s lower pay scale and a higher cost of living.

Tasers return to Duval County (Fla.) schools (The Florida Times-Union): Jacksonville, Fla., police, who serve as school resource officers in Duval County middle schools and high schools, will carry Tasers during the 2006-07 school year. They will be used only during incidents where deadly force normally would be used, Sheriff John Rutherford told the school board Tuesday. Most board members cautiously supported the idea that Tasers provide a non-lethal option in situations where a gun might otherwise be used.

Legislation in Illinois makes it easier for districts to merge (Chicago Tribune): In an effort to cut costs and reduce Illinois’ school bureaucracy, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has signed legislation that would make it easier for school districts to merge. The legislation permits new mergers, including elementary districts whose borders don’t touch as long as they are in the same high school district.

Branding initiative for University of California, San Diego (San Diego Union-Tribune): The University of California, San Diego wants to attract students with strong academic qualifications, but also be seen as a place for fun. The campus plans to spend up to $100,000 to research a branding initiative. It hired a marketing firm to conduct surveys that will help determine the gap that exists between the impressions of those inside and outside the university. UCSD is one of several universities in the past decade to initiate branding campaigns.

Florida schools acquire technology through grant (Pensacola News Journal): A grant of more than $1 million from the Florida Department of Education will help 11 school districts in the state purchase new classroom technology to improve student achievement in reading and technology literacy. Participating teachers and staff from the schools receiving the grants have spent almost two weeks in training sessions this summer.

$9 million planned for early-childhood education in Washington (Seattle Post-Intelligencer): The Gates Foundation and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire will announce a plan today to dedicate more than $9 million to educate the state's youngest children. The plan calls for a partnership, Thrive by Five, to be created to coordinate public and private spending on child care and early learning programs in Washington.

Alabama district suffers growing pains (The Birmingham News): Schools in Shelby County, Ala., expect about 1,000 new students this fall. The district will add more than 125 teachers, 40 buses and 60 trailer classrooms. While one school is scheduled to open in January and two more will open in fall 2007, the district still is at least three schools short of what it needs.

State of Texas controls public schools (The Dallas Morning News): Texas' education chief and her staff are writing a series of new rules regulating everything from how districts spend tax money to guidelines for student test scores. The school finance and education reform legislation passed by the state last spring cut local property taxes and ordered a list of education changes for every district in the state.

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