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NATION IN BRIEF

Monday, December 20, 2004; Page A05

Certificates Rejected From Areas With Gay Weddings

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. -- The Social Security Administration is rejecting marriage documents issued for heterosexual couples in four communities that performed weddings for same-sex couples earlier this year.

The agency is rejecting marriage certificates issued in New Paltz; Asbury Park, N.J.; Multnomah County, Ore.; and Sandoval County, N.M., during the brief periods when those localities recognized same-sex marriages.

The marriage certificate of Susie Kilpatrick, 30, of New Paltz, was rejected when she sought a new card this month. She said the local Social Security office told her that no marriage documents from the town could be used to establish identity if they were issued after Feb. 27, when New Paltz's mayor began marrying same-sex couples. About 125 heterosexual couples have been married since then.

"What concerns me is that the certificate is the only way to prove that we're married," she told the New York Times for Sunday editions. "If something happens to us, or some other couple from New Paltz, we can't prove we're married. We would not be able to draw benefits."

The agency did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Its Web site said it accepts civil-union documents from Vermont and marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. San Francisco marriage certificates for gay couples are not allowed, but those for heterosexual couples are being recognized. The Web site said the legality of marriage documents in the other localities, including New Paltz, is "still unresolved at the state level."

Results From Texas Schools' Achievement Test Questioned

DALLAS -- Dozens of Texas schools appear to have cheated on the state's redesigned academic achievement test, casting doubt on whether the accountability system can reliably measure how schools are performing, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The newspaper's analysis uncovered strong evidence of organized, educator-led cheating on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) at schools in Houston and Dallas, along with suspicious scores in hundreds of other schools.

Texas education policies on student accountability became the model for the federal No Child Left Behind law championed by President Bush.

The newspaper analyzed scores from 7,700 Texas schools, searching for ones with unusual gaps in performance between grades or subjects. More than 200 schools had large, unexplained score gaps between grades or between the TAKS and other standardized tests.

It found, for example, that the fourth-graders at Sanderson Elementary School in Houston scored poorly on the math TAKS, rating the school in the bottom 2 percent of the state. But the school's fifth-graders had the state's highest math TAKS scores, with more than 90 percent of students getting perfect or near-perfect scores.

-- From News Services


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