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State Standards Should 'Complement' Restructuring Goals, NASBE Argues

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By Deborah L. Cohen

State boards of education should promote restructuring efforts by setting clear goals for schools' learning and work environments and by giving districts more flexibility to meet them, argues a report released last week by the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Board policies must not "simply refashion schools into another rigid mold," states the report, which was released at the group's annual conference in Honolulu.

Regulations and standards, it adds, should "complement, not compete'' with, restructuring goals.

"Schools cannot change unless we who govern schools also change," states the report, entitled "Today's Children, Tomorrow's Survival: A Call to Restructure Schools."

The report, prepared by a 17-member study group, calls for changes in the ways schools teach, measure learning, and serve pupils' "nonacademic" needs.

It recommends that curricula be revamped to emphasize "depth of knowledge in core subjects rather than acquisition of superficial knowledge in many broad areas." It also calls for more varied instructional approaches, cooperative learning, interdisciplinary teaching, reduced student-staff ratios, and more effective use of technology.

In addition, the report cites a need for schools to work cooperatively with social-welfare, health, and youth-serving organizations to meet the needs of at-risk students.

The document also calls for more involvement in decisionmaking by teachers and principals, as well as for performance-based accountability systems employing a wide variety of measures beyond standardized tests.

To promote such efforts, the report states, state education departments must shift their focus from "school compliance to school competence" and realign their structures to offer more technical assistance to schools.

In addition, the report urges boards to visit schools and districts involved in restructuring, to help garner community support, and to back the creation of a pool of consultants to work with districts and schools on restructuring efforts.

It also calls on boards to: support professional-development programs aimed at improving skills; redesign personnel evaluation to focus on achievement of school goals; and support "nontraditional approaches" to teacher preparation and to the certification of teachers and administrators.

A resolution scheduled to be considered by NASBE members at last week's conference calls for an "outcome-based educational system" that includes many of the features described in the report.

Involving Parents, Communities

Another resolution to be taken up at the meeting urges boards to back policies and training programs that involve parents in their children's learning and in school volunteering, governance, and advocacy.

It also exhorts boards to foster community involvement in education through school-business partnerships, linkages between schools and other agencies, community-service activities, and mentoring programs.

A second report released at the conference, "Partners in Educational Improvement: Schools, Parents, and the Community," calls for training programs that help school personnel work successfully with parents and that encourage parents to participate effectively in their children's education.

The report also urges boards to support parental-involvement policies that are developed at the school level, are tailored to schools and communities, and respect "the diversity of families" they will serve.

The 15-member NASBE study group that prepared the report calls on boards to support school-community partnerships that "supplement and enhance public support of education," build political and economic support for schools, and increase public understanding of education issues.

The report recommends that boards develop formal policy statements of their commitment to parent and community involvement. It also suggests that boards review state policies and staff-training programs to identify ways to boost that commitment.

It states boards should require local districts, through accreditation procedures or other mechanisms, to have plans for supporting community and parent involvement.

State departments should offer grants to support local programs, and establish a "resource and dissemination center" to gather information on model parental- and community-involvement programs, the report concludes.

Corporal Punishment Ban

NASBE officials indicated that the conference would also consider a resolution condemning "the use of institutional corporal punishment of children in schools."

The resolution is "purposely brief" to underscore the group's aversion to "any form of corporal punishment," said Walter Esdaile, a member of the Connecticut state board and chairman of the resolutions committee.

"We didn't want to get caught up in defining what is or is not corporal punishment," he said in a statement.

The group also was expected to approve a resolution backing the concept of greater public-school choice.

The measure warns, however, that such efforts must maintain racial and socioeconomic balance and should not limit the resources of comprehensive schools that do not offer choice plans or of schools that serve disadvantaged students.

NASBE members also were expected to pass resolutions on youth service, international education, and services for homeless students.

Copies of the reports are available for $4 each from NASBE, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.

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