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E.D. To Make $250,000 Available To Develop 'Bold Plans' for Achieving Education Goals

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Washington--The Education Department will make $250,000 available to groups that develop strategies for achieving the national education goals, Christopher T. Cross, assistant secretary of education for educational research and improvement, announced last week.

Addressing a conference in Columbia, S.C., Mr. Cross said he hoped such organizations as the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the national teachers' unions would "use some of this money to develop bold, innovative plans."

"It's not a lot," the assistant secretary added in an interview, "but I think the leverage will be effective in advancing the goals in circles it's important to do that in."

Mr. Cross also said in the speech that the department would soon provide "several hundred thousand dollars" in funding for a consortium of states that are working on performance-based assessment, which he urged policymakers to develop as a step toward achieving the goals.

Such a consortium, he said, would enable states to share information to "advance the state of the art."

"That should save all of them a considerable amount of money, and the nation time, in moving forward," he said.

The conference last week was organized by Gov. Carroll A. Campbell of South Carolina, who was one of the leaders of the goals-setting effort. The six goals, set last year by President Bush and the nation's governors, outline targets for performance by the year 2000.

In his speech, Mr. Cross outlined several steps that parents, teachers, principals, policymakers, and business leaders could take to achieve the goals.

For example, he suggested, parents should read to their children; teachers should assign more homework and raise expectations for students; policymakers should "provide high-quality staff development to teachers and principals"; and businesses should provide incentives for student achievement.

Many of the proposals, although based on research, reflect simple common sense, Mr. Cross acknowledged. But, he said, "the message is not getting across."

Results from federal surveys, he said, show that, "in fact, schools are not assigning homework, parents are not making contact with schools."

"People want to find a silver bullet," he continued. "I'm convinced there is not a magic solution. What will succeed in reaching the goals is doing a lot of common-sense things like this."

Mr. Cross also pledged that the federal government would be an "active partner" in the endeavor, and noted that the Education Department is working with local groups and other agencies toward that end.

For example, he noted, he has convened seven state school-boards associations to prepare a report on what school boards can do to advance the goals. Their report, expected to be released in May, will recommend that all local boards set their own goals "that, at a minimum, incorporate the national goals," Mr. Cross said.

In addition, he pointed out, the department is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop video and print materials to help parents prepare their children for school, and with the Labor Department to identify the educational needs of the workplace.

"There is more than enough for all of us to do," Mr. Cross said.

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