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DOD Plan Aims To Bring Schools Into Reform Movement

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The Department of Defense is preparing to adopt a standards-driven plan that aims to bring its schools for military dependents into the school-reform movement.

Based on the national education goals, the plan lays out benchmarks, strategies, and performance indicators designed to help improve the 237 Department of Defense Dependent Schools in the United States and abroad.

"We are committed to establishing a worldwide educational system by simultaneously raising the standards of learning, affording greater autonomy at the local school level, and creating increased accountability for student success," said Lillian Gonzalez, the director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, in announcing the planning process earlier this year.

The "Community Strategic Plan" is the result of months of work by a team of parents, teachers, administrators, and union and military representatives.

It echoes the national goals in aiming, among other objectives, to ensure that all children are prepared for school, increase graduation rates, make sure that students master challenging subject matter, and improve achievement in math and science.

Although students in the DODDS system generally perform well on standardized tests and other measures of achievement, the plan will push the educational system "to new levels of excellence," Ms. Gonzalez said.

Echoes Goals 2000

The plan's priorities for the 1995-96 school year include:

  • Ensuring that all 3- and 4-year-olds have access to pre-school and gain proficiency in the key readiness skills identified by the National Education Goals Panel;
  • Increasing by 10 percent the number of students scoring at or above the 50th percentile on tests in reading, language arts, and social studies, and decreasing by 20 percent those scoring at or below the 25th percentile;
  • Narrowing the achievement gap in math and science between minority groups and the overall DODDS population by 50 percent;
  • Creating a professional-development program for teachers and other staff members;
  • Upgrading technology for instruction, management, and record-keeping; and
  • Enacting an initiative to strengthen relationships between teachers, parents, and students.

Officials also pledged to set up a process for monitoring implementation of the plan, school improvement, and student progress. And their document calls for forming school-improvement teams in every school, with the intent of helping to focus resources more efficiently and ensuring that decisions are made at the local level.

The leadership team will meet annually to review the plan.

Some 33,000 students attend 64 dod schools in the United States, and about 85,000 students attend 173 such schools abroad, making DODDS one of the largest American school systems.

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