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N.Y.C. To Develop Curriculum Standards for All Schools

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Schools Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines of New York City has undertaken the development of a curriculum framework for all the city's public schools.

The chancellor has established a panel of educators to devise citywide curriculum standards stating what students should be learning at certain grade levels, a spokesman confirmed last week.

Mr. Cortines told a reporter for The New York Times that standards are needed to address vast differences in the material taught to certain grades in each of the city's 1,069 schools and 32 community school districts.

Because of the current lack of standards, instruction varies widely among districts, causing children who move to another part of the city to have difficulty adjusting, Mr. Cortines said.

"This is really an issue of equity,'' said the spokesman, Frank Sobrino, who noted that some schools are better equipped with laboratory equipment, technology, and books and so are able to offer more advanced and specialized classes.

A Political Risk?

The new chancellor's movement into the area of curriculum carries some political risk, for the city's community districts have guarded the curriculum as their prerogative under a 1970 law that decentralized school operations.

One factor leading to the removal of Mr. Cortines's predecessor, Joseph A. Fernandez, was opposition to a multicultural curriculum guide that urged schools to teach tolerance of homosexuality. (See Education Week, Feb. 17, 1993.)

Mr. Cortines stressed that he was developing only a curriculum framework--with goals and objectives for certain grades--and would not seek to dictate specific lessons or exercises for teachers to cover.

"It will be each district's business as to how they go about achieving these standards,'' Mr. Sobrino said.

The curriculum framework will attempt to insure that primary students are exposed to phonics and hands-on science, while middle school students are taught algebra and a second language, Mr. Sobrino explained.

Mr. Cortines said he also plans to establish a new program, similar to one he implemented as the school superintendent of Pasadena, Calif., to bring uniformed police officers into schools to discuss their jobs and the law.

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