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Governors Stress Curricular Reforms As Linchpin of Restructuring Efforts

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By Peter Schmidt

The nation's governors, in the latest of a series of reports on education reform, last week urged educators to link curricular improvements with the school-restructuring efforts under way in more than half the states.

Structural reforms "ultimately will matter little if what is taught and how it is taught remains unchanged," Governor Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, chairman of the National Governors' Association, said in releasing Results in Education: 1989.

The report is the third of five such studies the governors' association has pledged to issue as a follow-up to its influential 1986 document on school reform, Time for Results: The Governors' 1991 Report on Education.

The new report, based on a 50-state survey, says that 27 states have adopted or are implementing initiatives to promote restructuring at the school or district level. These states, it says, "are generally starting small and using a limited number of strategies," typically in a small number of schools or districts chosen on a voluntary basis.

The initiatives undertaken by states include such features as school-based management and waivers of state regulations for participating schools.

But, the report emphasizes, "few reform efforts have yet touched on the heart of the educational process--what is taught and how it is taught."

Addressing the issue of curricular reform is necessary, it argues, because "there is mounting evidence and a growing consensus that the curriculum most prevalent in American schools is significantly flawed."

"[F]rom elementary reading and mathematics to history and high school science," it says, "subjects taught in U.S. schools are often highly fragmented and repetitious and emphasize narrow skills over deep understanding and isolated facts over cohesive knowledge."

The report calls on states to establish goals that focus on learner outcomes, emphasize higher-order skills, and lead to the development of more appropriate curricula and student assessments.

Leadership Issues Slighted

In other areas of education, the nga survey found that:

  • The education community lacks a consensus on the role of administrative and leadership positions and how best to prepare candidates for such jobs. With few exceptions, the report says, leadership issues have been slow in finding their way onto education-reform agendas.
  • The cost of needed school maintenance has increased by 64 percent since 1983, and the anticipated cost of needed construction and renovation nationwide stands at some $84 billion.
  • Through assistance for beginning teachers, career ladders, and financial incentives, 32 states are improving teacher recruitment and retention.
  • Forty-one states have new, expanded, or proposed policies for increasing parental involvement in schools.

Copies of the report may be purchased for $12.50 each from the National Governors' Association, 444 North Capitol St., Washington, D.C. 20001-1572; telephone: (202) 624-5300.

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