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parents can track schoolwork on Net

SAN FRANCISCO - Students who skip classes or forget their homework may soon have a tougher time getting away with it. SchoolSoft, based in Cupertino, Calif., has created a program that will let parents track school performance over the Internet. It runs on PalmPilot hand-held computers, which teachers can use to enter attendance records, test scores, and homework grades. The data then go to the school's central server, where parents can access it. So far, 330 schools nationwide are using the program.

In Germany, making the grades also requires good behavior

FRANKFURT, GERMANY - Starting in 2000, pupils in Dresden will be graded on their diligence, tidiness, conduct, and cooperation - a practice banned from German schools since the days of Communist East Germany. Other German states are skeptical, and education experts warn of the arbitrariness of such grades, but employers are optimistic. Concepts like diligence and conduct cover "key qualifications for the service society," says Hanns-Eberhard Schleyer, general secretary of the central German trades association. They indicate a person's ability to work on his or her own initiative or as part of a team, he says, and would provide employers with useful information on applicants for trainee posts or apprenticeships. But Marianne Demmer, an expert with the education and science employees' union, says she feared that in the absence of objective criteria, grading would be "left to the mercy of the teachers."

School board meetings denied prayer

CINCINNATI - The Cleveland Board of Education is violating the Constitution by opening its meetings with a prayer, a federal appeals court ruled last week. The 2-to-1 ruling reversed a 1996 decision that said prayer was permissible because it was similar to opening state legislature sessions. The court said prayer at school board meetings is more like prayer at graduation ceremonies or in classrooms, which federal courts have said is unconstitutional. A lawyer for the board said he will consult with school officials before deciding whether to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

- Compiled from wires by Stephanie Cook

College Students: Interested in writing for us?

We are always looking for college students to write for our "On Campus" column. To contribute a column, e-mail Kim Campbell at: campbellk@csps.com Or, write to The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA, 02115.

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