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Partnership's Board Backs Draft Student-Performance Standards

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The governing board of the New Standards project unanimously approved draft student-performance standards last week that are intended to answer the question: How good is good enough?

"These are the standards we've been waiting for," said Thomas Sobol, the chairman of the governing board and the New York State commissioner of education. "The release of these draft standards will be the beginning of a national conversation on what American students should be learning."

In another sign of forward movement for New Standards, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that they are contributing $8.3 million in additional funding to the project, a privately organized partnership that is working to create a national system of high academic standards and related assessments. (See Education Week, 1/18/95.)

The three-year grants will be the last these "seeding" foundations bestow as the project becomes self-sustaining. Officials of the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation, however, said they would contribute more money in support of Chicago and the state of Illinois if the state chooses to join the partnership.

"It's an indication that you have people seeing the work take off," Andy Plattner, the communications director for the National Center on Education and the Economy, said of the grants. The center, a nonprofit research and policy group based in Rochester, N.Y., and the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh are running the New Standards project.

The other members of the partnership are 17 states and six school districts.

October Release Planned

Performance standards are a part of the New Standards assessment system. They gauge the degree to which students have met the content standards and specify how and at what level students must demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

As a result of last week's board action, project leaders will be preparing to distribute performance standards in October to teachers, parents, policymakers, and the public.

The standards have been drafted for elementary, middle, and high school levels in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and applied learning.

By next June, project leaders hope to present the board with versions ready to be used in schools.

Marc S. Tucker, the president of the center on education and the economy, said the board unanimously approved the standards because they are rigorous, clear, and achievable. "I believe the nation--teachers, parents, and taxpayers--will embrace them as well."

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