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Goals Panel Discusses Ways To Involve Public in Its Efforts

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WASHINGTON--More Americans must embrace the six national education goals if they are to be achieved by 2000, members of the National Education Goals Panel agreed last week.

The panel of governors, members of Congress, and Clinton Administration officials last week discussed broadening its outreach efforts to make sure more parents and others in the general public learn about the goals and become involved in associated reforms.

"We have a long way to go in terms of people really understanding the basic issues of the goals,'' said Carol Rasco, President Clinton's chief domestic-policy adviser and a new member of the panel. "We've really got to work from the grassroots.''

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, also a new panel member, said at the March 3 meeting that "until we get members of the general public thinking [about the goals], I don't think we've achieved our purpose.''

Panel members discussed several outreach activities proposed for this year to broaden interest in the goals, including more varieties of the annual report detailing progress toward the goals, a videotape for distribution to interest groups, a national conference on school readiness, and a possible media campaign focused on the goals and national educational standards.

"Outreach has to be a major component of our agenda for the next year,'' said Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Democratic member of the panel, which was created to monitor progress toward the goals set in 1989 by President Bush and the nation's governors.

The goals state that by 2000: all children will start school ready to learn; the high school graduation rate will improve to at least 90 percent; all students will demonstrate competency in major subject areas; U.S. students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement; every adult will be literate; and schools will be free of drugs and violence.

Last fall, the panel released its second annual report on progress toward the goals, a 332-page tome that the group said showed "modest progress'' in each of the six areas. (See Education Week, Oct. 7, 1992.)

Since then, panel staff members and consultants have conducted an analysis of the dissemination of the report and its usefulness to educators and others.

Policymakers and some educators found the report useful, said Edward J. Fuentes, a senior research associate for the panel. But, he added, teachers and parents said the book was "too dense.''

"It didn't tell them what their role should be,'' he said.

Focus Groups

Focus groups assembled for the panel by the Widmeyer Group, a public-relations firm here, said the goals are a good first step toward achieving consensus on school reform.

But members of the groups could not agree on what schools should accomplish or what students should learn. Some participants questioned politicians' commitment to achieving the goals.

"One educator's comment on the [goals report] was 'This, too, shall pass,' '' said Phyllis Blaunstein, an associate with the firm. "There is a lot of skepticism out there.''

The firm recommended several ways to increase public interest in the goals, including publishing the annual progress report in different forms for different audiences, and a public-relations campaign to make the goals and related national standards a "kitchen-table issue.''

Ms. Blaunstein said some focus-group members suggested that the panel buy advertising space on supermarket shopping carts to publicize the goals.

More Understandable

Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina, a Republican, said current state-by-state progress reports should be made more understandable to people in each state.

"We need to put forward what a lay parent can understand,'' he said.

Panel members agreed it may be worthwhile to issue reports targeted toward parents, teachers, school boards, business leaders, and education policymakers.

"We have a mix of audiences, so we are going to have to have a variety of products,'' said Gov. E. Benjamin Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat and the panel's chairman.

In addition to Mr. Riley and Ms. Rasco, who replaced their counterparts from the Bush Administration on the panel, other new members are two Republicans appointed by the National Governors' Association: Govs. John Engler of Michigan and Arne Carlson of Minnesota.

The panel's next meeting is scheduled for April 21 in Lincoln, Neb.

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