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'Over-Regulation' Slows Reform, N.Y. Panel Argues

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State officials in New York should "eliminate over-regulation" to quicken the pace of educational reform there, a citizens' task force has concluded.

"Statewide goals should be clear, but districts should have flexibility in reaching those goals," the report maintains.

The study also includes suggestions for change in school finance, student assessment, and teacher recruitment.

"The task force took the position that local control and local action are the key here," said Robert Koff, chairman of the task force and dean of the school of education at the State Uni4versity of New York at Albany.

The report, presented this month to Commissioner of Education Thomas Sobol, was prepared by the New York State Task Force on Implementing Educational Reform.

The panel, which comprised 49 educators, parents, and business leaders, made its recommendations after a nine-month study of the state's public schools.

Educators should "ask fundamental questions about the value and effectiveness of district and school educational practices, and about the process used to implement change," the report's central recommendation urges.

To illustrate that point, the report includes a lengthy list of sample questions, grouped under five themes:

"What are we trying to accomplish?"

"Why do we need to change?"

"How can we improve the way we work together?"

"How can we improve student learning?"

"How will we know if we have succeeded?"

Finance, Recruitment Issues

The study also suggests reforms in five other areas:

School finance. "The state must modify its financing system to ensure that all children from our cities, our rural districts, and our suburbs have access to quality education," the report states.

Teacher recruitment. The report recommends "scholarships and grants, forgiveable loans, and state incentives to recruit and retain outstanding educators." Renewed emphasis on recruitment of minorities is also necessary, it indicates.

Information sharing. The state should create a "clearinghouse" of information on school reform, the study suggests.

Children's services. The report urges "increased coordination and communication at the state and local levels among schools and agencies that provide services to children at risk."

Student assessment. State officials should play a greater role in helping local districts "develop a wider range of assessment methods," the study argues.

The report was a joint initiative of the Education Commission of the States, the Institute for Educational Leadership, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It was paid for by the Danforth Foundation, which has also underwritten similar projects in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, and Minnesota.

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