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Goals Panel Moving To Create Council To Oversee Standards and Assessments

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WASHINGTON--Without waiting for final Congressional approval, the National Education Goals Panel is moving ahead with creation of a council to oversee the development of national standards and a system of assessments tied to the standards.

Legislation to create such a council, which was recommended in a report to the goals panel and the Congress, passed the Senate in January. But a bill to authorize a standards-and-assessment council is currently still pending in the House.

At a meeting here late last week, the goals panel was expected to consider a slate of nominees for the council, adopt a proposed charter for it, and review working papers examining its responsibilities.

Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina, the chairman of the goals panel, said the actions are necessary so that the council can be up and running as soon as the Congress acts.

"Our feeling is, we cannot wait three to six months to see what we have,'' he said at a meeting here in June.

But Representative Dale E. Kildee, a Michigan Democrat and a member of the goals panel, warned that the panel was moving too fast. In a memorandum to the panel, Mr. Kildee said it should act only to commission background papers.

"It would be premature for the panel to prepare a slate of nominees prior to the enactment of authorizing legislation, particularly since it is possible that the exact makeup of [the council] could change as the legislation progresses,'' wrote Mr. Kildee, who is the sponsor of the pending House bill. "It also may undermine some Congressional support for moving the legislation.''

Dispute Over Readiness Data

The goals panel, which is composed of governors, Bush Administration officials, and members of the Congress, is charged with monitoring progress toward the six national education goals adopted by President Bush and the governors in 1990.

The panel last week released a handbook to help local communities prepare their own reports on progress toward the goals. The 42-page book includes questions to ask in coming up with measures of progress, suggestions for data to use, and sources for additional information.

In addition to deciding on the standards council, the panel was expected late last week to resolve a dispute over what to include in its second progress report, which is scheduled to be released next month.

At a meeting in June, the panel agreed both to repeat from its 1991 report a number of indicators that are the most recent available data on progress toward the goals and to update indicators for which newer information is available. Some 43 percent of the national data and 81 percent of the state-level data can be updated, according to the panel's staff.

The panel also approved a number of new indicators, including data from the Education Department's National Education Longitudinal Study on student learning between the 8th and 10th grades, student participation in community-service activities, and dropout rates for Asians and Hispanics. In addition, it endorsed use of data from the Census Bureau on state-by-state high-school-completion and dropout rates.

To provide information on progress toward the goal of ensuring that children arrive at school ready to learn, the panel tentatively agreed to create a "child-health index,'' combining a number of social and health indicators; an "adequate-care index,'' bringing together data on access to medical care; and a "child-literacy index,'' combining data on parent activities at home with preschool children.

Panel members disagreed, however, about a proposal to include in the report data from a survey of parents and teachers of 1st graders on children's readiness for school.

Governor Campbell said the survey data would provide a "snapshot'' of parents' and teachers' opinions of children's readiness.

But Samuel J. Meisels, an early-childhood expert at University of Michigan and a member of the resource group advising the panel on the readiness goal, urged the panel not to include the survey data.

"It is a snapshot, but it is a snapshot taken at a distance,'' he said at the June meeting. "It's enough distance that you're not sure what you're looking at.''

Copies of the handbook for local goals reports are available free of charge from the National Education Goals Panel, 1850 M St., N.W., Suite 270, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 632-0952.

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