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Delays Cited in Resignation From N.Y. Social-Studies Panel

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A prominent New York State educator last week resigned from the committee that is drafting a state curriculum framework for social studies.

Catherine Cornbleth, an associate dean and education professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said delaying tactics by the state education department led to her departure.

"The department is uncertain and apparently reluctant to risk the controversy about multicultural education that another social-studies document is likely to generate,'' Ms. Cornbleth said in a statement. "Instead of being proactive, the education department has encouraged the committee ... to continue to meet and revisit the same questions over and over again.''

Consequently, Ms. Cornbleth said, the state board of regents will not get the document until June at the earliest--three years after the regents adopted a controversial diversity policy from which the committee was expected to develop the framework.

In late 1991, Commissioner of Education Thomas Sobol told the regents that he hoped to implement the framework in 1993.

Last November, committee members said they hoped to present their work to the regents by early this year. (See Education Week, Nov. 17, 1993.)

Surprise Move

Committee members said Ms. Cornbleth's resignation was surprising because it came immediately after a meeting at which they believed they had nearly completed the curriculum-and-assessment portion of their task.

"I think that all of us have been frustrated by the fact that the committee's work hasn't been as fast as we would like,'' said Linda Biemer, the co-chairwoman of the panel and the dean of education and human development at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

"If you are trying to make as significant and as necessary changes as Tom Sobol ... it means you are going to want to engage as many sectors of society as possible,'' said Jorge Klor de Alva, a co-chairman of the committee and a professor of anthropology at Princeton University. "If you're going to shorten the process, you can dictate from the top down.''

Alan Ray, a spokesman for Mr. Sobol, said education officials were surprised and disappointed. "This department hasn't wanted to delay this at all,'' he said.

Social studies is viewed as one of the more contentious curricula to develop because of its multicultural dimensions.

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