On Heels of National Report on Goals, Governors Outline Progress of States
As members of the National Education Goals Panel were placing their "wake-up call"to the nation on the state of educational performance last week, a number of governors and state education officials were presenting reports outlining how they plan to meet the ambitious targets for improvement.
"We were awake some time ago," said James W. Dyke Jr., Virginia's secretary of education. "We were already moving in that direction."
Like many of the state reports, Virginia's listed a number of programs, either enacted or on the drawing beard, that officials said would help move their students toward achieving the six national goals. A few states unveiled new proposals, while several--such as Mississippi--listed some programs that had been created but never implemented.
At the same time, many of the reports also described the current status of student performance. And while many state officials trumpeted their students' achievements, many also acknowledged--as the national report states--that they have a long way to go.
What we must come to grips with," said Gov. Mike Sullivan of Wyoming, "is that our students are above average in a nation that, educationally, is performing below average."
Filling the Gaps
At least half the states issued reports on education progress last week, according to the National Governors' Association. By the end of the month, nearly all governors will have presented information on their states, N.G.A. officials said.
The state reports were expected to fill some of the gaps that many educators said limited the usefulness of the national report. (See related story, page 1.)
Without data at the state level, observers noted, parents, school officials, and policymakers would be unable to connect the data to their students' performance.
In addition, the strategy reports were aimed at providing some guidance on policies that might help states reach the goals. Members of the national panel said they did not want to dictate policies to states.
In presenting their state reports, a few governors used the occasion to unveil new initiatives.
Several states, including Alaska, Louisiana, and North Carolina, announced last week that they had created local versions of America 2000, the Bush Administration's plan for education improvement.
"Many important initiatives to improve education are already under way in North Carolina," said that state's Governor, James Martin. "What we lack is a comprehensive, statewide focus for bringing educational excellence to every school and every classroom in the state."
California officials, meanwhile, released a mathematics-reform plan, the first proposal to follow the recommendations of a statewide education summit. Additional plans stemming from the summit--which had called for major reforms in curriculum, assessment, technology, teacher preparation, and other areas--will be forthcoming in the next few months, according to Bill Honig, the state's superintendent of public instruction.
Gov. George Voinovich of Ohio said that state's progress report indicates the need for a fundamental restructuring of Ohio's education system.
"Tinkering at the edges of the system won't do it," he said. "We need to change the way we think about education, the way we run and finance our schools, the subjects we teach, and how we teach them."
'The Same Agenda'
State officials also coupled the progress reports with state events that focused attention on the issue of student performance.
Maine, for example, held a statewide "Education Day" in conjunction with the release of the national report. Nearly one-fourth of the state's schools took part in efforts to bring attention to the problem.
In Vermont, meanwhile, the state department of education last week held two well-attended education conferences, and encouraged local officials to hold "school report nights" at the same time.
"For the first time in my career," said Richard P. Mills, Vermont's commissioner of education, "all three levels [of government] are speaking to the same agenda."
Vol. 11, Issue 06, Page 19