Educators Urge New Approach, Cooperation For Better Schools
Washington--Radical changes are needed in current educational systems if the problems outlined in recent national reports are to be addressed, several educators told the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources last week during the committee's final hearing on "A Nation at Risk," the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.
"What is needed now is a courageous and bold breakthrough involving a nearly total overhauling of the American public-education system," said Curtiss R. Hungerford, professor of educational administration at Brigham Young University.
Mr. Hungerford, was one of six educators and policymakers invited by the committee to share their views on how to improve the quality of secondary education in the United States. Members of the committee called the hearings, a committee aide said, to gather expert opinions on what the federal government should do to upgrade education.
"The 100-year-old high-school and the 120-year-old land-grant-college concept, along with the explosive growth of the community college following World War II, make it no longer necessary to keep so many institutions piled up on top of each other in a cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly venture. Consolidation, merging, economizing, is now demanded," Mr. Hungerford said.
"The challenge is not how to raise taxes," he added, "but how to cut costs significantly and improve the quality of output manyfold."
Among other things, he recommended that community colleges and public secondary schools be merged into a single noncompulsory institution.
Mr. Hungerford told committee members he expects the kinds of engineering and reorganization that he suggested to be "resisted emphatically by the entrenched establishment," including the legal and financial establishment, he said.
John F. Kerry, the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, also ad-vocated "new" approaches to education.
"Primary and secondary schools must join with colleges and universities, with business, labor, the states, and the federal government in a totally new cooperative venture if education is going to do what it must," Mr. Kerry said.
'The Boston Compact'
In Massachusetts, he said, such partnerships have already begun. Mr. Kerry cited as one example "The Boston Compact," in which local colleges and business groups work with schools to reduce unemployment and improve opportunities for higher education for the city's young people.
"Urban, suburban, and rural communities," Mr. Kerry added, "must receive funding that ensures equity among their schools. Children must not suffer later employment discrimination as a result of early educational-system inadequacies."
Another witness before the committee, Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, warned the Senators that the quality of the teaching force is deteriorating and that unless something is done, parents will abandon public schools.
In order to improve the teaching force, Mr. Shanker recommended testing prospective teachers and raising their beginning salaries to attract qualified applicants.
"If we don't require an examination for new teachers," he said, "we are not serious about fighting declining standards. Teaching cannot afford to recruit from people who rank at the bottom among college graduates."
The chairman of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, David P. Gardner, also addressed the committee, saying schools are making constructive changes.
"We have every reason to be optimistic about the prospects for turning our schools around," he said. "An article in the Sept. 19 issue of Newsweek announced, 'School is going to be different this year,' and indeed it is."
Mr. Gardner, now president of the University of California at Berkeley, told the committee that recommendations from the commission's report are already being implemented in many states.
As of late September, he said, 19 states had taken action to raise high-school graduation requirements, and another 21 states are considering such proposals. Mr. Gardner also noted that local projects are experimenting with lengthening the school day and year and that several approaches are being considered for establishing competitive salaries and developing career ladders for teachers.