States Seek Goals 2000 Aid for Existing Efforts
A review of more than two dozen applications for funding under the new Goals 2000: Educate America Act indicates that states will pursue a variety of approaches.
There is some common ground, however; nearly all the states whose applications have been approved plan to use the Goals 2000 money to build on existing reform efforts rather than to launch new school-reform processes.
Michael W. Kirst, a professor of education at Stanford University, said the Goals 2000 approval process is a good example of "Clintonian federalism."
"These initial applications are supposed to be on the assurance system--you assure you're going to do something, and we accept that," he said. "That's much different than Democratic administrations in the past [where] the view was there were some states that couldn't be trusted."
In exchange for a first-year planning grant, states need only describe how they will make subgrants to school districts and establish an education-improvement panel charged with developing a statewide reform plan.
The plans must include development of curriculum-content and student-performance standards and a complementary assessment system, "opportunity to learn" standards or strategies, and ways to integrate technology in the schools.
States have two years from the day they receive their planning grants to submit the school-improvement plans, but several state panels have already been named, and many states expect to submit their plans to the Education Department by the end of next summer.
Administration's One Horse?
No regulations have been issued for the law, and department officials appear to be giving states a great deal of latitude, as they had promised to do.
"These applications are being approved on the basis of, 'You keep doing what you've already been doing,"' Mr. Kirst said. "Goals 2000 allows for 50 different patterns, [and the Education Department is] permitting wide state variation, much wider than Chapter 1 ... or Chapter 2."
The department has given the green light--and released funds--to 25 states and two territories, and 11 more applications are pending. More than $100 million was appropriated for the current fiscal year.
Some observers noted that it is not surprising that department officials would be eager to see Goals 2000 succeed, for both substantive and political reasons.
As one school-reform advocate said, "They've put all their money on this one horse."
And several state officials said that the department had been remarkably helpful and efficient in handling their applications. Kathleen Plato, Washington's policy director for research and restructuring, was particularly impressed that her state was notified of its application approval personally by Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thomas W. Payzant.
A few state officials disagreed with Ms. Plato's sentiment. For example, Ken Gentry, Kansas' Goals 2000 team leader, said his state was asked to proffer "paperwork that was a little more extensive than we were led to believe."
In Pennsylvania, officials submitted two drafts that were deemed unsatisfactory. According to Tom Fagan, who is spearheading the Goals 2000 implementation process for the Education Department, the state reiterated the statutory requirements rather than describing how it would implement the requirements.
Joe Bard, the state's assistant commissioner for elementary and secondary education, said state officials submitted a third draft and "cried foul, [and] we had approval within several days at that point."
One federal official said the department "just decided it was not useful to get into a position with a state where we were haggling over little bureaucratic details."
'Bare Bones' Proposals
But the applications indicate that many states, such as Pennsylvania and Missouri, submitted "bare bones" proposals as short as seven pages.
"Our philosophy was to leave as much as possible open for the [state-improvement] panel to fill in," Otis Baker, Missouri's assistant commissioner of education, said. "Had we overwritten our initial application, it would constrain what our panel might do."
"The more specificity they put in the applications, the more creativity they take away from their state panels," Mr. Fagan agreed.
Other states, many with a history of standards-based reform, submitted highly detailed applications that went beyond the requirements. Mr. Fagan said the department even cautioned some states against providing too much detail.
In Delaware, for example, officials are already developing curricular standards and accompanying assessments, and the state's application describes the ongoing reform efforts and explains in detail how subgrants will be awarded to districts.
The state sees the initiative as an "opportunity to help focus and leverage existing efforts in a comprehensive and coherent fashion," said Lisa Hicks, Delaware's Goals 2000 coordinator.
Delaware will award a subgrant to one district in each of its three counties that will mentor other districts that will receive funds in subsequent years. North Dakota will follow a similar approach in eight state regions.
Kansas also offered a detailed process for deciding which districts would get subgrants this October.
However, while most states plan to provide subgrants for local planning as early as next month, Missouri will wait until the 1995-96 school year. The state will create a commission to establish a subgrant approval process, Mr. Baker said, rather than impose one from the state level.
A few states--Maine, New York, California, Washington, and North Dakota--discussed their plans for developing controversial opportunity-to-learn standards
North Dakota will use its school-based accreditation system as a basis for developing the standards, which are intended to measure schools' capacity to deliver adequate services. Washington plans to hire an "opportunity-to-learn specialist" to study the issue.
California's history of collecting "school performance reports" will allow that state to provide more assistance to failing schools--something state officials consider the best way to address students' opportunity to learn.
New York is developing opportunity standards "that will guarantee to all students the resources necessary to attain the new high [academic] standards." And Maine will develop a study group to "identify legal barriers to learning experienced by several of Maine's special populations of students."
Most states said they would give districts subgrants for preservice teacher education and professional-development programs, in addition to subgrants for overall district improvement.
Some states, such as Arkansas and Colorado, will offer them as separate grants to districts or consortia of districts and higher-education institutions. Others, such as Delaware and California, will seek to tie one or both of the teaching-related grants to the district-improvement grants.
Allyson Tucker, the director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Law and Education Policy, said that some states have not applied because the law is not "going to have much of an impact," and that they "see it as a carrot that they don't need to look at right now."
But John T. MacDonald--who has served as New Hampshire's schools chief and as an assistant secretary of education in the Bush Administration and is now following the implementation of Goals 2000 for the Council of Chief State School Officers--said he expects all states to apply for funding by the July 1995 deadline.
Many of the 16 states that have not yet applied, he said, have governors or state chiefs who are in the midst of election campaigns.
In New Hampshire, state Sen. Wayne King, a Democrat who is challenging Gov. Stephen Merrill, has charged that Mr. Merrill's failure to respond to Goals 2000 "has cost New Hampshire nearly $2.7 million in federal support."
"We have not rejected Goals 2000," said Jim Rivers, a spokesman for Mr. Merrill. "The Governor is looking at it very carefully."
Conservatives in other states have also expressed misgivings about Goals 2000, but federal officials said no state officials have said their states would not participate.
"We're taking a wait-and-see attitude," said a spokesman for the state department of education in Virginia, where Gov. George Allen and Superintendent of Public Instruction William Bosher have expressed reservations.
In Texas, the Board of Education decided Sept. 8 to apply for Goals 2000 funding, but only after a rancorous debate in which conservative members complained that the funds could be used for school-based clinics and that the state school-improvement panel would usurp the authority of the elected state board.