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State Chiefs Set Sights on Federal Omnibus Education Bill

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Jackson, Miss.--Urging the Congress to pass the omnibus education bill that died in the final hours of the 101st Congress will be a top priority for the Council of Chief State School Officers in the coming year, members agreed here last week.

Without such legislation, the council believes, it will be much more difficult to achieve the ambitious national education goals set out earlier this year by President Bush and the nation's governors.

"There remains a lot of concern about the goals," Betty Castor, the superintendent of public instruction in Florida, said at the chiefs' annual meeting. "We believe we have lost some momentum because there was not more action in the last [Congressional] session."

In addition to allocating $800 million for education programs in its first year, noted Gordon M. Ambach, executive director of the council, passage of the legislation would have committed the Congress to a goals-setting effort that to date has included only Mr. Bush and the governors.

He added that Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has pledged to make the legislation the "first order of business" for the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee in the Congress that convenes in January.

Council members also discussed a series of recommendations they will make to the panel chaired by Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado that is charged with establishing a way to monitor whether the goals are met.

The council recommended that the panel:

Not rely solely on national data to judge progress toward meeting the goals. Instead, council members will recommend that the panel also take into account data gathered by the states.

Consider establishing a set of "interim targets" for achieving various levels of progress before 2000, the target date for meeting the goals. Such a monitoring strategy would establish benchmarks by which future progress could be measured.

Place particular emphasis when considering the first goal--that all children come to school ready to learn--on the availability of prekindergarten care.

Take into account the number of students who receive a General Educational Development certificate, perhaps by age 25, when considering how to measure the nation's graduation rate. "It makes an enormous difference as to which group one counts," Mr. Ambach said, referring to the goal that 90 percent of students graduate from high school by 2000.

Finally, council members expressed concern over how they can keep the national goals in the forefront of the domestic agenda, given the fact that 18 newly elected governors did not participate in the goals-setting process.

Also at their meeting, the state education chiefs focused on issues related to teaching and teacher education in a session convened at the suggestion of Gerald N. Tirozzi, the Connecticut commissioner of education.

Assembled for a panel discussion on the issues were David G. Imig, executive director of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education; James A. Kelly, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; and Gregory R. Anrig, president of the Educational Testing Service.

In a recent paper, Mr. Tirozzi suggested that the ccsso consider convening a national forum of such leaders to encourage them to discuss their efforts and to share their work with one another.

"We must coordinate the dialogue and attention toward one purposeful conclusion or put teacher reform itself at risk," the commissioner wrote.

The council took no formal action on Mr. Tirozzi's suggestion, but is considering a related project through its Interstate New Teacher Support and Assessment Consortium, which links state education agencies responsible for teacher licensing, universities, and other groups interested in teacher assessment.

The consortium is seeking a grant to help several states review their teacher-preparation, assessment, and licensing standards and then revise them to better reflect the concept of accomplished teaching developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In other action, the council:

Approved a policy statement urging that schools be restructured to provide opportunities to teach higher-order thinking skills to all children. (See Education Week, Nov. 14, 1990.)

Agreed to consider whether to advocate that a dedicated federal tax be established to pay for education.

Agreed to focus during 1991 on programs that prepare non-college-bound students for the workplace.

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