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NASBE Forms 21-Member Panel To Explore Factors Contributing

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to School Readiness Washington--The National Association of State Boards of Education has formed a task force to help advance the national goal of assuring that, by the year 2000, all children enter school ready to learn.

The 21-member National School Readiness Task Force, which held its first meeting here last week, is designed to complement the National Education Goals Panel chaired by Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado.

At a news conference last week, Jim Crain, a New England Telephone vice president and a co-chairman of the task force, said the readiness goal "lays the foundation" for the five other national education goals.

In a statement, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, the panel's other co-chairman, said, "Unless children reach school ready to learn, many of them will have a very difficult time achieving in these other areas."

The panel will focus on defining readiness; promoting investments in health, education, and support services for children and parents; and assuring that assessment and school-entrance practices improve children's opportunities, involve parents, and promote the success of children from diverse backgrounds.

The task force, funded by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, includes policymakers and experts in child development, teaching, and assessment strategies.

Among its members are U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello; John MacDonald, assistant U.S. secretary for elementary and secondary education; Betty Castor, Florida's commissioner of education; and Constance E. Clayton, superintendent of the Philadelphia public schools.

Tom Shultz, the task force's staff director, said the panel will touch on some of the same themes sounded by an early-childhood task force convened by nasbe three years ago.

In its influential report, "Right From the Start," the earlier task force advocated ungraded units to better address the developmental needs of 4- to 8-year-olds and partnerships between schools and community agencies to improve services for children and families.

But the new panel will also extend its focus to prenatal- and early-childhood health services, Mr. Shultz said.

The panel will also offer states "specific guidance" on how to meet the national goal, including help in defining readiness, said Patricia Hamner, a task-force member and the president-elect of nasbe.

The panel will meet again in Little Rock, Ark., and Alexandria, Va., and issue a final report in Washington in November.--dc

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