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State Journal: Re:Learning update; Carruthers's agenda; Building a consensus

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Pennsylvania has become the sixth state to join Re:Learning, an effort by the Education Commission of the States to foster the reform ideas of Theodore R. Sizer.

Commission officials announced Pennsylvania's decision to join the project during the ecs's annual meeting in Chicago last month. The other participating states are Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

Re:Learning is a collaborative venture involving the ecs and the Coalition of Essential Schools, a group of schools that has agreed to rebuild their educational programs around concepts espoused by Mr. Sizer in his book, Horace's Compromise. The concepts include actively engaging students in their own education; emphasizing fewer subjects but in greater depth; and reducing teaching loads to permit teachers to know each student personally.

In his book, Mr. Sizer argued that much of what is wrong with education can be traced to "authoritative top-down direction."

In an interview during the ecs meeting, he acknowledged that some teachers and principals in the six Re:Learning states have expressed skepticism about the willingness of state officials to loosen the bureaucratic reins that constrain them.

"I've been at local meetings where people couldn't believe it, they felt it was some sort of trick," he said. "There was a high level of suspicion, but that's breaking down. That's the fun of it. As you see the barriers peeled away, it's great."

Mr. Sizer appears to have found a strong ally in Gov. Garrey Carruthers of New Mexico, the ecs chairman for 1989-90.

"I'm very high on Re:Learning," he said in an interview. "It's the best idea to come along in education for a long time."

The governor also said he hopes to begin "a blameless critique" of those aspects of governance that hinder education.

Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, meanwhile, was expected to emphasize education last weekend upon assuming the chairmanship of the National Governors' Association.

According to Dick Vohs, a spokesman for Mr. Branstad, the governor planned to announce the formation of a task force on education during the nga's annual meeting in Chicago. He said the panel will work "to help develop a consensus on what needs to change in education" in order to produce "a results-oriented system."--tm

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