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English, Reading Groups Signal Plan To Develop Standards

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Professional associations representing English and language-arts teachers have tentatively decided to spend $1 million to develop student standards for their disciplines independently of the federal government's efforts.

The governing body of the National Council of Teachers of English last month approved expenditures of up to $500,000 to continue work on such standards, while the executive committee of the International Reading Association recommended committing a similar amount to the undertaking.

The I.R.A.'s governing body was scheduled to consider the proposal this week at the group's annual convention in Toronto.

In conjunction with the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois, the two associations had been picked by the U.S. Education Department to establish voluntary national standards for English and language arts.

The department in March withdrew its financial support, however, citing a variety of concerns about the progress and direction of the project. (See Education Week, March 30, 1994.)

Richard Long, the associations' Washington representative, said the I.R.A. and the N.C.T.E. expect to complete their work by June 1995.

As a result, he said, the two groups' standards should be ready before those developed by the new grantee selected by the department to continue the project.

At the time the groups' funding was discontinued, department officials said they would try to have another group in operation by early fall. But a department spokeswoman last week said that timing now appears to be optimistic.

Groups Seek Support

Meanwhile, the I.R.A. and the N.C.T.E. are seeking the support of other professional groups.

At a meeting last month, the English and language-arts associations asked the Alliance for Curriculum Reform to pass a motion calling on the Secretary of Education to continue supporting and funding professional organizations and their partners in the development of standards.

The steering committee of the alliance, a coalition of professional groups involved in curricular issues, is expected to take up the matter next week.

Mary Lindquist, the chairwoman of the alliance, said the group wanted to be supportive of its fellow professionals but would not take action until the situation has been thoroughly examined.

"I don't want this to kill all of us,'' said Ms. Lindquist, a former president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The N.C.T.M. was the first group to establish national standards outlining what students should know and be able to do. It did so without federal funding.

Other members of the alliance questioned whether the N.C.T.E. and the I.R.A. could continue working with the department, given the major philosophical differences in their approaches to setting standards. The associations have focused on process, while federal officials have urged that the standards be content based.

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