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Ky. Board Seeks To Clarify Fuzzy Outcomes

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Four years into their massive school-reform program, Kentucky officials have approved a new and simplified version of the goals and outcomes that guide classroom changes.

The state board of education this month accepted the clarified outcomes, which were rewritten into plainer English at the direction of lawmakers.

Opponents of the reforms had criticized the outcomes for vagueness and questioned what kind of teaching they might lead to.

The most recent incarnation--the product of two months of work by the state education department's communciations staff and review by 175 educators and analysts--left both supporters and critics feeling better but not satisfied.

"I think we can live with them,'' said Connie Bridge, the associate dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky and a member of the state panel that wrote the original outcomes.

Critics said that while the changes were an improvement, they did not go far enough. The opponents continued to question the philosophy of an outcomes-driven program, even though they had offered their own version of the student expectations.

"Our charge was to retain the substance but clarify the language,'' said Jim Parks, a spokesman for the education department.

"If the public in public education means something other than that schools are paid for with tax dollars, then the citizens of the state need to understand what the schools are doing,'' he observed. "From that standpoint, using more ordinary language is much preferable.''

From 'Manipulate' to 'Use'

The new document removes certain words and phrases that were especially troubling to critics. "Manipulate'' was either removed or changed to "use,'' "construct meaning'' became "make sense,'' and the expectations that students communicate ideas and emotions became communicating ideas alone.

With precision and simplicity as its watchword, the department also was careful to underscore the notion that the reforms expect more than just student participation.

The old mathematics outcome, which read, "Students demonstrate understanding of measurement concepts,'' became, "Students understand measurement concepts and use measurements appropriately and accurately.''

The old arts-and-humanities outcome, which said, "Students appreciate creativity and the vaules of the arts and the humanities,'' now reads, "Students have knowledge of major works of art, music, and literature and appreciate creativity and the contributions of the arts and humanities.''

The internal battles that raged throughout the process left some controversial standards in place. In a March draft, the department proposed deleting an outcome that read, "Students interact effectively and work cooperatively with the diverse ethnic and cultural groups of our nation and world.''

In the end, the outcome stood in a slightly revised version: "Students interact effectively and work cooperatively with the many ethnic and cultural groups of our nation and world.''

Learning Simpson's Rule

Observers who have been close to the Kentucky outcomes debate and watched the swelling national opposition to such proposals said that while the state has been able to stand its ground, some concerns still linger. (See Education Week, May 18, 1994.)

"We began with a survey of the public that included 800 people, and the major call was for students to be independent, productive citizens who could work together and get along well with other people,'' Ms. Bridge said. "But because there is a small group of critics who are more vocal, they have become influential.''

State officials met with leading reform opponents as they drafted the outcomes and received the group's list of what students should know and be able to do.

The group's writing outcome states: "Students should possess a complete knowledge of the formal process of writing, including penmanship, spelling, grammar, syntax, structure, and diction. Students should also possess a wide knowledge of English vocabulary.''

The opponents' math outcomes specify point-by-point knowledge of algebra, trigonometry, geometry, statistics, and calculus, including vector-valued functions, the mean-value theorum, and Simpson's Rule (a formula for computing integrals numerically).

The state board, which had already come under some fire from leading Democratic lawmakers for not acting fast enough to clarify the outcomes, accepted the department's new version and slated it for adoption as state regulation.

Public hearings on the proposal are scheduled to begin June 29.

Changes in Kentucky's Learning Goals

The following are selected outcomes included in Kentucky's learning goals, which were originally drafted by a panel of teachers but revised this month by the state board of education.

SOCIAL STUDIES

OLD: Students recognize social groupings and institutions and address issues of importance to members of them, including beliefs, customs, norms, roles, equity, order, and change.

NEW: Students observe, analyze, and interpret human behaviors, social groupings, and institutions to better understand people and the relationships among individuals and among groups.

ARTS AND HUMANITIES

OLD: Students create products and make presentations that convey concepts and feelings.

NEW: Students create works of art and make presentations to convey a point of view.

MATHEMATICS

OLD: Students demonstrate understanding of number concepts.

NEW: Students understand number concepts and use numbers appropriately and accurately.

COMMUNICATIONS

OLD: Students construct meaning from and/or communicate ideas and emotions through movement.

NEW: Students make sense of and communicate ideas with movement.

SCIENCE

OLD: Students identify and describe systems, subsystems, and components and their interactions by completing tasks and/or creating products.

NEW: Students identify and analyze systems and the ways their components work together to affect each other.

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