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Panel To Consider Ways To Upgrade Quality of Federal Education Data

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Washington--A blue-ribbon panel of businessmen, educators, and researchers is scheduled to begin deliberations here this week on ways the federal government can upgrade its measures of the quality of education.

The Special Study Panel on Education Indicators, whose 19 members were announced by Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos last month, will advise the Education Department's commissioner of education statistics and submit a report to the Congress within 18 months describing how existing yardsticks of education progress can be improved.

According to the acting commissioner, Emerson J. Elliott, the panel's chief task will be to find ways to make education indicators more relevant to education policymakers.

"The data are not at the level where decisions are made," Mr. Elliott said. "They are at the national level, while decisions are made at the state or local level."

Alan D. Morgan, New Mexico's state school chief and the panel's chairman, said he will urge the group to recommend a set of indicators "that are acceptable to the educators and understandable to the general public."

"What we don't need is another education report that sits on the shelf," Mr. Morgan said.

Mr. Elliott added that the panel's diverse membership should aid it in its effort to build a consensus within the education community on the type indicators the government should publish.

The panel's formation "is extremely timely" in light of the agreement between President Bush and the nation's governors in September to pursue national performance goals for schools, Secretary Cavazos noted in his announcement last month. The Congress passed an omnibus education bill last year requiring the department to create the panel.

"The government produces many reports but few of lasting impact," Mr. Cavazos said. "This study panel has a mandate to look across the entire educational enterprise and say, 'Here's what parents and principals need to know about their schools, and here's how to report it."'

One of the panel's key tasks will be to review The Condition of Education, an annual report prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics that contains some 50 tables and summaries on the status of the nation's schools and colleges.

Mr. Morgan said he also will encourage the panel to examine the department's "wall chart," an annual state-by-state comparison of education data.

"The wall chart is well-intended, but it is not well-respected" and "is not something that the local school districts have much ownership in," Mr. Morgan said.

He added that he hopes the panel will reach an agreement on indicators that more accurately gauge student progress and the environment in which schools operate.

Mr. Morgan also said he will urge the panel to develop a system for continually upgrading education indicators after the panel has been disbanded.

The members of the study panel are:

Charles A. Ballard Jr., vice president, Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; Trudy W. Banta, director, Center of Assessment, Research, and Development, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; David W. Breneman, economist and former president of Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Anthony S. Bryk, associate professor of education, University of Chicago; Leigh Burstein, professor of education, University of California at Los Angeles.

Carlota Cardenas de Dwyer, English teacher, Tom C. Clark High School, San Antonio, Tex.; Estelle James, professor of economics, State University of New York, Stony Brook; Dennis P. Jones, president, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Boulder, Colo.; Duncan MacRae Jr., professor of political science and sociology, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; John A. Murphy, superintendent, Prince George's County (Md.) Public Schools.

Allan Odden, professor of education and director of Southern California Policy Analysis for California Education Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Sally B. Pancrazio, acting executive deputy superintendent and chief of research and evaluation, Illinois State Board of Education; Arthur G. Powell, senior research associate, National Association of Independent Schools, Boston.

Marshall S. Smith, dean, school of education, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.; Floraline I. Stevens, director of program evaluation and assessment, Los Angeles Unified School District; Nancy Van House, associate professor, school of library and information studies, University of California at Berkeley; Finis R. Welch, chairman, Unicon Research Corporation, Los Angeles; John R. Young, principal, Schenley High School Teacher Center, Pittsburgh.

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