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Goals Panel Effort Aims to Guide State Set Standards

The National Education Goals Panel has launched an initiative to help states set voluntary academic standards and create accompanying assessments.

The panel agreed to convene two ad hoc groups to promote the efforts. One group, composed of nationally recognized academics, practitioners, and policy specialists, is to "develop a description of 'world class' standards," according to a news release. The other would help states "with assessments and measurements of student achievement."

The panel also agreed to create a peer-review process to provide "constructive feedback to the states as they develop standards and assessments."

These actions, championed by Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado and Gov. John Engler of Michigan and taken at a panel meeting in late July, are intended to promote standards-setting in light of the likelihood that the National Education Standards and Improvement Council will never be convened. The council, created under the Goals 2000: Educate America ACT to review state standards, has come under fire from critics who say it could result in greater federal control of education.

Waivers Granted

Kansas has been granted the authority to waive federal rules for school districts, and 14 districts nationwide have been granted waivers of Title I rules under new provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Kansas is the second state to have been designated an "Ed/Flex" state. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley announced the state's designation last month. Six states will be granted such status.

The secretary also approved Kansas' application for second-year Goals 2000 funding.

Mr. Riley announced the district waivers in the Aug. 28 Federal Register. The list includes waivers granted through June and is the first of what will be quarterly announcements.

All the waivers allow districts to delay compliance with new Title I rules that change funding allocations within many districts. (See Education Week, June 21, 1995.)

For example, the Palm Beach County, Fla., district was granted a one-year waiver to exclude four eligible secondary schools in order to continue 22 elementary schools' schoolwide projects and begin six new schoolwide programs. The Penn Manor, Pa., district received a one-year waiver to provide services to all at-risk 1st graders, some of whom are in otherwise ineligible schools, as part of an early-intervention reading program.

NSF to Extend Initiative

The National Science Foundation expects to launch a second phase of its State Systemic Initiative in science-education reform, the agency's top education official told reporters last month.

The NSF plans to award additional grants to a handful of the nine states entering their final year in the five-year program, which aims to foster cooperation between political, community, and education groups with the goal of revamping the way science and mathematics are taught.

Luther Williams, the NSF's assistant director of education and human resources, said that the three-year extension grants could help create stronger models for other states.

A second cohort of 10 states is entering its fourth year in the NSF project, and the last group is beginning its third year.

The NSF also plans to award Urban Systemic Initiative grants to two more cities, bringing the number of participating cities up to 18. But given the current budget outlook, Mr. Williams said, it is unlikely the agency will be able to fund 25 sites, as planned.

Nine cites are entering their second year in the five-year urban program, and seven cities are to begin their first year this fall.

Guidance Available

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley has mailed to every school superintendent in the nation a copy of the Clinton administration's legal guidance on religious expression in public schools.

President Clinton released a draft of the document during a July speech, in which he stressed that the U.S. Constitution's religion clauses do not "convert our schools into religion-free zones." (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1995.)

The document does not discuss several issues that are still legally contentious, such as student-led prayers at graduation.

Mr. Riley began distributing the guidelines on Aug. 10.

"It is my sincere hope that these principles will help to end much of the confusion regarding religious expression in public schools," he said in an accompanying letter.

Copies can be obtained by calling (800) USA-LEARN.

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