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Urban Educators Back Strategic Plan For Reaching Set of Reform Objectives

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The Council of the Great City Schools last week approved a preliminary strategic plan for achieving a series of national goals that will be presented to leaders of 80 national organizations at an urban education summit in Washington in January. Leaders from the education, business, and philanthropic communities, some of whom helped draft the "Strategies for Success," have pledged to attend the two-day summit.

Joseph A. Fernandez, chancellor of the New York City schools and chairman of the council's urban education task force, said, "The summit is the beginning; it is not the end."'

"It's not legally binding obviously," he added, "but it shows a commitment on the part of all these groups to work toward a common goal."

Among the organizations planning to participate in the conference are the Business Roundtable, the March of Dimes, the National Alliance of Business, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, and the United Way of America.

Unlike other recent "education summits" where goals have been espoused, Mr. Fernandez said participants at the Washington meeting will consider not only goals, but also a strategic plan.3

"To my knowledge," he said, "it is the first time we've brought everybody together to have an honest discussion about it."

To ensure that participants follow through on any summit agreement, the council has set the condition that the groups send only their top officials: presidents and executive directors of organizations and superintendents and school-board presidents. The council will not accept substitutes, Mr. Husk said.

"They are the ones that have to sign on to this agreement," he explained.

Arrangements for the education summit come at a time when efforts are being made to draw attention to what the nation's cities need and what they can offer.

Last week, the mayors of 35 of the largest cities convened in New York City at the invitation of Mayor David N. Dinkins to discuss strategies for linking the cities' plight to the nation's economy and security.

Among other goals, the mayors promised to take the lead in "restructuring our troubled educational system," including lobbying for increased federal spending for preschool and early-childhood education.

The mayors also agreed to send a delegation to the January meeting in Washington.

At the education summit, the council hopes to name a board of advisers to monitor progress toward the goals.

The board will be made up of members from community-based groups, as well as from business and education organizations. No more than 25 percent of the seats will be filled by council members, Mr. Husk said.

Between now and the summit, Mr. Husk said, the council's member districts and other organizations will begin negotiations on a three- year plan that will outline what specific schools and districts should do to meet the national goals.

The goals--similar to the national goals developed by President Bush and the nation's governors, but geared to the specific characteristics and needs of urban students-- were adopted last March. (See Education Week, March 28, 1990.)

By 2000, under the goals, urban students will increase their achieve ment levels at least to the national average; all urban children will start school ready to learn; and urban schools will increase their graduation rates, improve the quality of the teaching force, prepare urban children for college and the workforce, and ensure a healthy and safe school environment.

The strategies approved last week address the goals.

Goal 3, for example, has six strategies, including establishing partnerships with parents to encourage their involvement in schools and developing and operating alternative programs for students who have dropped out. At the summit, Mr. Husk said, the council will seek the groups' commitment to the strategies and to working together on behalf of improving urban schools.

For example, he said he hopes the organizations will all throw their support behind the Urban Schools of America Act of 1990, which would provide federal grants to urban schools. The legislation, first introduced last month, is expected to be resurrected in the 102nd Congress, which convenes in January.

"Before, when we've gotten to the Hill, it's been pretty much school people," he said. "This time, we will be joined by community people and business."

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