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Mastery of Workplace Skills Urged as Mandate in Indiana

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The plan, announced by Mr. Bayh in his State of the State Address Jan. 10, is part of a 19-point initiative aimed at bolstering preparation of the workforce by helping keep students in school, ease the transition from school to work, and upgrade state education and training programs.

Under the proposal, students would have to demonstrate basic proficiency in such areas as reading, writing, computation, communication, problem solving, and "life skills" by age 16. Those who were unsuccessful would have to stay in school until they mastered the skills or turned 18.

The plan also includes a guarantee to Indiana companies that any state graduate they hire has sufficient reading, writing, and basic mathematics skills. If not, the high school the employee attended would be responsible for providing remedial instruction at no cost to the employer.

"This will add real value to a high-school diploma, provide our graduates an important vote of confidence, and extend to Indiana businesses a powerful incentive to hire Hoosiers," Mr. Bayh said.

The initiative also would expand the mandate of a panel authorized by the legislature last year to develop proficiency standards for vocational and technical education.

Under the new proposal, the panel would develop standards geared to4ward workplace skills for all students and determine how to assess their basic competencies.

Its members, whom Governor Bayh is expected to appoint in the next month, are to include business and education leaders and parents.

"It is extremely important that business and education sit at the same table to develop the same expectations," said Stanley Jones, Mr. Bayh's senior education adviser.

The "skill-mastery certificates" could also be made available to adults who have not completed high school and could be offered at colleges, training centers, or businesses.

Mr. Bayh has also proposed that students be asked to choose an area of interest for concentrated study in their last two high-school years and that "general education" classes be phased out. Students would have to demonstrate proficiency in their area of interest as well as in workplace skills. Both assessments would be at least partially performance-based.

Unlike a plan advanced recently by Gov. Booth Gardner of Washington State, the proposed assessments in Indiana would not supersede other kinds of graduation requirements. (See Education Week, Jan. 9, 1991.)

But a separate measure advanced by Mr. Bayh would exempt from most state rules "discovery schools" that develop innovative organizational and instructional initiatives. The program would be offered to 30 schools initially and be extended statewide on a voluntary basis within seven years.--d.c.

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