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Ala. Panel Outlines Learning Goals To Comply With Order

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Alabama will have complied with a judicial mandate to reform its education system when its students are able to communicate in a second language, can apply algebraic concepts, are familiar with artistic styles from diverse cultures, and exhibit confidence in their ability to achieve, a state-level panel has suggested.

Those and other skills are included in a draft of proposed objectives for student performance under court-ordered reform, which was issued last month by the Alabama Commission on School Performance and Accountability.

The plan details 78 objectives for eight academic subjects or goals: communication, mathematics, science, social studies, health education and physical education, the arts, vocational and career skills, and "sense of self-worth and ability to achieve.''

The objectives flesh out the nine "capacities'' that Alabama students must have under Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eugene W. Reese's 1993 order, which found the state's schools to be inadequate and inequitable. (See Education Week, Oct. 13, 1993.)

Achieving Adequacy

The learning goals and performance objectives developed by the commission are those the state school system must equip its students with--at a minimum--in order to achieve adequacy.

The performance objectives were fashioned by the commission after consultations with educators and members of the public.

The commission expects to issue its final report after the draft version, now being circulated in the state, draws further comments.

In putting the objectives together, the commission examined proposed national goals as well as the work of other states, said Mike Warren, the president of Energen and Alabama Gas and the commission's chairman.

"We've tried to take the best of all of those,'' he said.

While each content area has specific objectives for student performance, the commission identified four that overlap all content areas:

  • Use of technology as a tool for learning;
  • Critical thinking, decisionmaking, and problem-solving;
  • Making connections within content areas and across the curriculum; and
  • Application of knowledge to various situations in life.

"These goals and objectives will significantly enhance the performance required of our students,'' Mr. Warren said.

"And once performance is achieved, they will effectively compete on national and international levels,'' he added.

The state board of education will review and approve the proposed performance objectives. But final action could be months off, said John M. Tyson Jr., the board's vice president.

The board will then translate the student-learning goals and performance objectives into courses of study and plans identifying what students should know and be able to do.

But a lack of adequate resources for schools currently stands in the way of ambitious reform, the commission acknowledged in an introduction to the performance goals.

Stable Financing Urged

Alabama students "will not be competitive nationally and internationally unless educators receive the support and enabling conditions that are necessary to meet their new responsibilities,'' the introduction says.

That support includes sufficient textbooks, maps, laboratory equipment, smaller class sizes, guidance and support services, and staff development, the report indicates, as well as "an adequate, equitable, stable, and predictable system of finance.''

Students in some schools currently could not fulfill the document's science objective that calls for demonstrating "safe and proficient use of scientific equipment such as ... microscopes, balances, and computers,'' since the schools do not have any or enough of such items for students to use.

Prompted by Judge Reese's order, state lawmakers are currently working on school-reform and-finance legislation.

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