Alaska Board's 'Effective-Schooling' Plan Will Allow Local
Reacting to the concerns of local school districts, the Alaska State Board of Education has endorsed a concept that will recognize "local diversity" in the implementation of a plan for a statewide school-improvement proposed by the Governor's Task Force on Effective Schooling.
The concept, called "choice and alignment," will allow districts either to establish their own goals and objectives for curriculum content or to follow the state-established goals, according to Ernest E. Polley, director for educational design and delivery.
The state board's decision, Mr. Polley explained, formally recognizes the role of local school districts in educational decisions. He said they will be responsible for "setting curriculum goals and for achieving those goals, designing the curriculum, insisting that they are implemented, and then managing them."
School districts that do not implement their own "effective-schooling practices," according to Mr. Polley, will have "no choice but to adopt state guidelines."
The task force's recommendations, which are contained in a 76-page report, had been the focus of a series of public hearings held earlier this year thoughout the state. Of particular concern to some citizens during those hearings, Mr. Polley said, was whether the "state should mandate a homogeneous set of goals on curriculum, which raised the issue of local control."
The state board's adoption of the choice and alignment concept, according to Mr. Polley, settled the issue. "The major leadership groups don't seem to have any problem with this," he said.
Robert C. Greene, executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, said he expects the local school boards to support the idea behind the effective-school recommendations. "The way it's being designed," he said, "no one is saying its a bad idea."
Local school boards are "rapidly recognizing that planning and accountability is the way to go in order to administer a quality educational program," Mr. Greene said. "They are universally accepting of the concept and that we must move in that direction."
However, Mr. Greene said they are "cautiously optimistic" that the program can be implemented because they "would not like to have a whole series of regulatory mandates." He said it is too soon to gauge their attitude toward the choice and alignment concept and that the issue will not be explored until the members meet in December.
The state task force was established two years ago by Gov. Jay S. Hammond to determine the quality of education in the state's public schools. Its report calls for the state board to adopt 45 specific effective-schooling practices identified in the following general areas: parent participation; computer-assisted instruction; class size; the principal as the instructional leader; time factors; and classroom organization and grouping.
So far, the state board has adopted two of the 45 recommendations, Mr. Polley said. The recommendations are expected to be in effect in local schools by 1992, he said.
"We are not going for a quick fix," Mr. Polley added. "We are going for a long-range improvement program."
Meanwhile, however, officials in the state department of education are proceeding with a pilot program to train local administrators and teachers from six schools located in urban areas, according to Mr. Pol-ley. Eventually, teams of administrators and teachers from schools in the state's 52 districts will receive the in-service training in preparation for the effective-schooling recommendations.
Mandate to Provide Training
"Regardless of what the state board decides on implementing the effective-schooling practices," Mr. Polley said, "we recognize that the department has a mandate to provide training for practitioners in the field."
In addition, the department has established a "hotline" to communicate effectively with various groups in the state "to help them keep their constituents informed," according to Mr. Polley. "What should occur is a different system of public education in the state," he said.