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13 States Join NASBE's Early-Childhood-Education Network

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The National Association of State Boards of Education has organized a network to assist states in launching early-childhood-education initiatives and in reforming current programs, practices, and policies.

Thirteen states--Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington--have joined the NASBE Early Childhood Action Network.

Tom Schultz, NASBE's early-childhood director and the facilitator of the network, said the goal is to help states carry through on a wide range of program and policy reforms for children from birth to age 8.

Some of the issues the network is addressing dovetail with the recommendations of "Right from the Start,'' a report issued by a NASBE task force on early-childhood education in 1988. The report urged that standardized testing be de-emphasized, that hands-on learning be encouraged, and that ungraded units be formed to meet the developmental needs of young children.

In a report issued in December, another NASBE panel laid out ways to garner support and tap a wide range of resources to help meet the first national education goal, which states that, by the year 2000, all children will enter school ready to learn. (See Education Week Dec. 11, 1991.)

"NASBE has amassed a wealth of solid research in the early-childhood field,'' said Gene Wilhoit, the association's executive director. "The time is right to do something concrete with our studies.''

Rather than "imposing an agenda,'' Mr. Schultz said, the new network is designed to help states build on efforts already under way or in the planning stages.

"We're trying to work with states and encourage them in whatever pieces of a program they're working on and promoting [the spread of] information across the states,'' he said.

Assessment Concerns

A state school-board member and a curriculum specialist from each state in the network attended two recent meetings to begin exchanging information on "best practices.'' Also attending were local leaders of Head Start, government, health-care services, higher education, and private-sector child care.

Among the topics discussed, Mr. Schultz said, were ungraded early-childhood units and policies on testing, retention, and reduced class size.

Issues that "cut across several states,'' he said, included concerns about how to clarify Chapter 1 testing requirements and reconcile them with early-childhood curriculum reforms and how to design alternative forms of assessment.

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