Eyeing Reform, School-to-Work Bills, States Formulate Plans
State officials already are making plans for education-reform and job-training initiatives in anticipation of the Clinton Administration's proposed "Goals 2000'' and school-to-work programs, participants at the annual conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers have made clear.
Meeting here this month, the council adopted a statement pledging to work toward "systemic reform'' of education that essentially endorses the direction taken by Goals 2000 and echoes the Administration's rhetoric.
The "goals 2000: educate America act'' legislation, which would establish a federal role in setting educational and occupational standards and authorize grants for state and local reform, still faces obstacles. (See story, page 11.)
But Thomas W. Payzant, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, told the chiefs that the U.S. Education Department plans to have orientation meetings this winter and to have grants on the way by July.
Mr. Payzant also said department officials do not plan to administer the program in the traditional manner, by "setting up an office called Goals 2000.''
"We're looking at how we can do business differently in the department, using Goals 2000 as a model,'' he said.
He said that officials from several offices within the agency will oversee the program and that advice will be sought from outside groups. Department officials also are considering having "comprehensive review teams'' perform simultaneous on-site evaluations of Goals 2000 programs and all other federal programs in the same state or district to limit bureaucracy.
"We can't say to states and school districts, 'Think systematically,''' Mr. Payzant said, "if we don't do it in Washington.''
As the C.C.S.S.O. was an early and strong supporter of the Goals 2000 concept, it is not surprising that most chiefs here praised the plan.
"The timing of Goals 2000 is absolutely perfect,'' said Mary L. Fitzgerald, the commissioner of education in New Jersey. "We're attempting to do the very things the federal legislation is suggesting that we do.''
Superintendent Jerry L. Evans of Idaho struck the only discordant note, criticizing language in the statement on systemic reform that referred to the federal government as a "full partner.'' The word "full'' was later removed.
"I'm not ready to turn to my state and say the federal government is going to be a full partner in reforming education in my state,'' he said.
In an interview, Mr. Evans said he is "uncomfortable'' with the close relationship between the council and the Administration.
"I don't have a problem with working with them, but I think we've gone beyond that,'' he said.
The policy statement calls for changes centered on a "challenging vision of what our students should know and be able to do'' and standards embodying that vision. The chiefs promised to strive for more coherence in state policy, improved coordination between programs, and more autonomy for schools and teachers coupled with clear accountability for results.
"The challenge is trying to balance bottom-up control with some top-down control,'' said Superintendent Werner Rogers of Georgia. "I would be less than candid if I didn't say our colleagues at the local level are a little skeptical.''
Superintendent Alan D. Morgan of New Mexico, who assumed the council presidency, said the organization will "become more technical-assistance-oriented'' to help implement the new programs.
The biggest challenge will be to get agencies to work together, according to the chiefs and Christine Kulick, a consultant for Work Force Policy Associates, a Washington-based firm that studied programs in eight states that received planning grants from the U.S. Labor Department or the council.
"To create a state school-to-work system instead of just a new program, there needs to be an integration with the education-reform efforts of the state,'' Ms. Kulick told the chiefs. "Who controls the funding is another important issue.''
She said some states have had problems integrating a youth-apprenticeship approach emphasizing on-the-job training with tech-prep programs--cooperative ventures between districts and community colleges that combine academics and job training.