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Mickelson Seeks Models for School Overhaul in S.D.

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Gov. George S. Mickelson of South Dakota has taken what he and his backers see as the first step toward a complete overhaul of his state's education system by asking for funding for eight pilot projects that would serve as models for revamping elementary and secondary curricula, assessment, and teaching.

The Governor late last month announced his request for $1.3 million from the legislature for the projects, which are to be spread throughout the state in elementary and secondary schools.

The goal of the projects, Mr. Mickelson said, will be to make school learning more relevant to adult wage-earning life, create more comprehensive methods of assessment, and link schools to the surrounding community.

The projects will aim, for example, to encourage student entrepreneurial projects that contribute to local economic development.

"This signals a major change in the way we deliver education to young people in South Dakota," the Governor said in announcing the plan. Mr. Mickelson said he would ask lawmakers to expand the program statewide if the pilot projects, to be developed this year and in schools by the fall of 1992, are successful. The project's funding would be split roughly evenly among curriculum development, new assessments, inservice retraining of teachers, and incentive payments to the participating schools, according to Barbara Smith, the Governor's special assistant for education.

Two pilot projects would be launched in each of four regions of the state, with each encompassing one elementary school, one middle or junior high school, and one high school, Ms. Smith said.

The goal is to enroll slightly more than 5 percent of the state's 128,635 K-12 students, or about 7,000 children, she said. The pilot schools would receive about $50 per student in incentive payments.

To be included in the program, schools would have to develop a proposal that incorporates technology, multicultural issues, and a link with the surrounding community.

In addition, the schools would be required create a local evaluation technique to show the success or fail ure of the project.

The current lack of connection be tween school activities and the com munity is the primary problem facing South Dakota schools, Ms. Smith ar gued. By supporting student entre preneurial projects that benefit the community, she said, the proposed projects may help spur young people's interest in contributing as adults to local economic development.

Currently, by contrast, "we are training people to leave South Da kota," Ms. Smith said.

Planning for the proposal has been under way since September 1989, when Governor Mickelson held a state summit on education in preparation for President Bush's na tional education summit.

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