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Oregon Board To Vote on Action Plan for Excellence

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Based on 52 recommendations from eight task forces that have studied education reform since January, the Oregon State Board of Education has developed an "Oregon Action Plan for Excellence."

The plan, which has been printed and mailed to some 4,000 residents of the state, will be the subject of statewide hearings this week and will be voted on for final approval by the board June 28-29, according to Agnes Mussmecher, an assistant to the state board.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Verne A. Duncan last January appointed 92 administrators, teachers, community leaders, and parents to serve on task forces charged with analyzing critical educational issues and developing recommendations for reform.

Each of the 92 panelists then appointed five to eight additional members, for a total representation on the panels of about 600 Oregonians. At 15 regional forums across the state in mid-May, a majority of those who participated said they fa-vored a total of 46 of the 52 proposals.

The action plan covers seven general topics, such as defining what Oregon students should learn, increasing expectations and incentives for student achievement, measuring and assessing student performance, and improving the effectiveness of teachers and administrators.

In addition, the plan focuses on ways to enhance school effectiveness, increase the use of communications technology, and improve the use of instructional time.

Plan's Recommendations

Among the action plan's recommendations are the following:

The Oregon Department of Education, working with local districts and higher-education institutions, should define the required common curriculum goals for grades K-12 in terms of the learning skills and knowledge students are expected to gain as a result of their schooling experience.

The state board should strengthen high-school graduation require-ments by increasing the credit units required of each student to: 4 units of English; 2 each of mathematics and science; 1 each in U.S. history, government, and economics, world history and culture, health, and physical education; a half-unit each in career development and personal finance; 2 units of required electives in vocational education/applied arts, visual and performing arts, or foreign language; and 7 additional electives.

The state should award an "honors diploma" to high-school graduates who attain a grade-point average that indicates superior academic achievement and who demonstrate excellence in academic areas, vocational/applied arts, and/or visual or performing arts.

The state board should establish standards and measure student performance in grades 5, 8, and 11 in the learning skills and knowledge specified in the common curriculum. This statewide testing program should be built on existing local programs.

Local districts should improve the effectiveness of performance-evaluation systems for all teachers and administrators.

In order to encourage local initiative by school districts, the education department should develop plans for freeing selected districts from "the constraints of standards which may inhibit creativity and initiative in developing innovative plans of action."

The education department should encourage the establishment of industry-education partnerships in the development, applications, and use of technology, and the state board should work with state agencies to establish an "educational technology council" to coordinate the application of all forms of educational technology.

Local districts and state agencies should work together to "free classrooms of interruptions and find creative approaches to more productive daily, weekly, and annual school schedules and calendars."

The education department should give a statewide test to all 8th graders to assess their success in mastering the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in high school.

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