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Alliance Seeks To Help Schools Implement Curriculum Standards

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ARLINGTON, VA.--A consortium of 26 national subject-matter and other education groups moved last week to carve a role for itself in the emerging debate over education standards by taking steps to sketch out for schools what implementing new standards would involve.

Members of the Alliance for Curriculum Reform meeting here agreed on three measures designed to provide a fuller picture than they believe has been suggested so far of what it would take to put standards into place.

First, the group plans to develop guidelines for "school delivery'' or "opportunity to learn'' standards, which outline the resources, staff development, facilities, and other elements schools would have to have before students would be held accountable for knowing the content suggested by national standards.

In addition, the group will gather other kinds of information for state school chiefs, local school districts, and the members of its individual associations on the practical aspects of implementing all of the new curriculum standards in schools.

To determine in a systematic way what those needs are, the alliance also will seek funding for a major research effort to link districts in some two dozen states and to assist and monitor them as they implement the standards over a three-year period, beginning in 1994.

"What we'd really like to do is demonstrate across the country what really is going to be involved in putting these standards in place,'' said Gordon Cawelti, the executive director of the group.

"By 1994-95, we're going to have seven or eight different standards in place,'' Mr. Cawelti told the group. "Can a school district do all of these at the same time?''

'A Pox on All Your Houses'

Although the alliance was officially formed just last year, its members began meeting nearly two years ago in response to proposals to set education goals and standards for what students should know and be able to do in school.

Several of the subject-matter groups now developing standards in their disciplines are also members of the alliance.

While supportive of standards-setting efforts, the A.C.R. has raised questions about the practical concerns and the equity issues involved in the process.

There was much discussion last week, for example, about the "mythical 4th-grade teacher'' who may be confronted with a pile of inch-thick standards documents to implement over the next two years.

"If I could play that teacher for a moment,'' said Judith Renyi, the director of Collaboratives for Humanities and Arts Teaching, a Philadelphia-based reform group, "I would say a pox on all of your houses.''

Alliance members also raised questions about such issues as a potential lack of incentives for schools to implement the standards and whether non-English-speaking students would have to meet the new standards.

Currently, national curriculum standards have been or are being developed in 10 subject areas. All but three of those efforts are receiving federal support.

In the education-reform bill it unveiled last month, the Clinton Administration proposed setting up a national panel to certify those standards and the opportunity-to-learn standards.

The A.C.R. will take up proposals for guiding the development of opportunity-to-learn standards during its next meeting in August.

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