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Business Urged To Ask for Results

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Washington--Enlarging on his theme of accountability in education, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said at a conference here that private-sector leaders who help build business-education partnerships should demand results for their contributions.

"When a business invests money in school programs, it should expect to see results in the way of better attendance, higher test scores, and fewer dropouts," Mr. Bennett last month told a group of 800 business executives and educators at the Fourth National Symposium on Partnerships in Education.

Pointing to what he called a substantial record of commitment--the formation by local and national businesses of partnerships with more than half of the nation's schools--Mr. Bennett said the business community now has a right to ask for a return on its investment.

"With the generosity, concern, interest, time, and investment that you put into partnerships, I hope you won't be reluctant to ask for results," he said.

The nation's 50,000 school partnerships range from programs that involve tutoring and career education to those that stress substance-abuse and dropout prevention, literacy initiatives, and postsecondary financial aid.

Mr. Bennett said that to aid the coordinators of such programs, the Education Department would publish another in its series of "what works" publications within a year, focusing on successful approaches to educational partnerships.

In predicting the future paths partnerships would take, members of a symposium panel said that one trend would be programs that could produce specific, measurable outcomes. They indicated that a major problem with current partnership efforts is their lack of focus.

Willie W. Herenton, superintendent of schools in Memphis, said partnerships would increasingly concentrate on early-childhood education, parent education, and job training.

He added that, to compel results, the business community would move toward programs that hinge on performance-based incentive grants for individual schools.

Mr. Herenton also stressed that partnerships should become more inclusive--involving government, the private sector, community-based organizations, and schools.

State initiatives, particularly matching-grant programs, are one of the best vehicles for fostering more inclusive partnerships, said Laurey Stryker, assistant commissioner of education in Florida.

She described the Private Sector and Education Partnership Act, passed by the Florida legislature this year, which appropriated $800,000 for strengthening partner8ship programs in the state and establishing the Florida Compact.

Florida is one of the first states to attempt a statewide program modeled after the Boston Compact, a nationally recognized education-business partnership in that city.

Gordon Ambach, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, seconded Mr. Herenton's prediction of increased interest in early-childhood-development programs, but also noted two other areas likely to stimulate partnership efforts: the dropout problem and the changing nature of the U.S. workplace.

"The teaching profession is looking at empowerment and the quality of the work environment at the same time many businesses are looking at the exact same issues," Mr. Ambach said. "The two groups should share experiences and directly participate in the changes of the workplace."

Picking up Mr. Ambach's theme, Donna Oliver, the 1987 Teacher of the Year, urged business leaders to visit local schools to "observe the problems of the physical environment and get a sense of the demands on teachers' time."

In a speech that drew a standing ovation, she said business leaders should also use their political leverage to help candidates who support funding for public education.

The symposium was sponsored by the Presidential Board of Advisors on Private Sector Initiatives.

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