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Draft Content Standards Issued in Colo.

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A state panel in Colorado last week unveiled draft content standards for six academic subjects that it described as "the starting point in a yearlong effort to agree on'' what students should be expected to learn.

State officials from Gov. Roy Romer down hope that the 200-page document spurs a public discussion about how to raise academic expectations for all Colorado students. They also hope it does so without raising fears that they wish to impose a statewide curriculum, do away with traditional grades or assessments, or introduce outcomes-based education.

A standards-based system "shall not require districts to abandon the use of Carnegie Units, to abandon a letter-grade system, to adopt outcomes-based methods of teaching, or to use student portfolios in place of assessments,'' says the document, which was released Feb. 28 by the Standards and Assessment Council, a panel appointed by Governor Romer.

A conservative backlash against a performance-based-assessment system in the Littleton, Colo., school district is fresh on the minds of educators throughout the state, several of them said. The district dropped the system last month. (See Education Week, Feb. 9, 1994.)

Outcomes-based education has drawn fire across the nation from conservatives who contend that it replaces traditional instruction and assessment with a vague, value-laden system of "learner outcomes.''

Standards Mandated

State Sen. Al Meiklejohn, the Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, said in an interview last week that the draft content standards in reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, and geography "are a very different concept than outcomes.''

"Standards [represent] 'back to basics' with a vengeance,'' he said, "but with much higher levels of expectation.''

Barbara Conroy, a council member and the curriculum director of Adams County School District #14, said the council studied standards developed by national groups in each of the six subject areas.

"We really aren't trying to define a curriculum, but to define one part of what students should know,'' she said.

The council will have a series of public meetings and make a recommendation to the state board of education by August.

Under a state law passed last year, the board must approve model standards by Jan. 1, 1995, and districts must adopt local standards that meet or exceed the state standards by January 1997.

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