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Include Equity as Key Tenet Of Reform, Coalition Argues

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The reform movement has not focused enough on making schools bias free for all students, and it must do so if it is to succeed, a coalition of educators and activists says in a report to be released this week.

Educational change must go beyond standards for academic content and performance and include equity as a "defining characteristic" of systemic reform, the report argues.

Similarly, those who specialize in educational-equity issues have concentrated too much on sexual harassment and compensatory programs for the poor and "have not adequately worked together to influence the mainstream of educational reform," says the study, "Educate America: A Call for Equity in School Reform."

'Opportunity To Learn'

The National Coalition of Educational Equity Advocates, based in Chevy Chase, Md., wrote the report, which is being published by the American Youth Policy Forum, the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, and the National Education Association. It has been endorsed by 53 education, civil-rights, and other groups.

To make educational opportunities more accessible, the report says, changes need to be made in a host of areas, including school finance, teacher training, and student assessment and testing. "Gender, race, and culture biases must no longer shape school and teacher expectations and skew student assessments," it says.

Families and communities should have access to information and services to insure children's well-being, the authors say.

The report also recommends the adoption of "opportunity to learn" standards. In part, that means that schools must have adequate financial and other resources and curricula that will enable students to meet high content and performance standards.

"Today, reform that does not deliberately address what Jonathan Kozol calls the 'savage inequalities' in school resources and programs will not transform our national system into one of opportunity for all," the report says. Mr. Kozol, whose 1991 book Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools highlighted disparities between inner-city and suburban schools, served on the coalition's steering committee.

Copies of the report are available for $5 each, prepaid, from the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium Inc., 5454 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1500, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815; (301) 657-7741.

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