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Chiefs Seek Summit Call for Standards Review

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Washington

Participants in this week's national education summit should agree to create a voluntary process for reviewing the states' academic standards, the nation's schools chiefs said last week.

The summit, organized by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin and IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Louis V. Gerstner Jr., will gather most of the state governors and many corporate executives in Palisades, N.Y., for two days. They plan to focus on standards, assessment, and education technology.

At a news conference here last week, the Council of Chief State School Officers urged the governors and state legislatures to provide the money needed to improve standards. In addition, the chiefs' group said, money is needed to link those standards to assessments that will measure students' progress toward meeting them.

The news conference was one of several media events here in the final days before the summit as education groups and some of the participants jockeyed to influence the discussions in advance.

Gov. Thompson, the chairman of the National Governors' Association, and Gov. Bob Miller of Nevada, a summit organizer and NGA vice chairman, spoke to a National Press Club audience.

And Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, briefed reporters on his expectations for the meeting. His comments accompanied the release of a new international study of science-examination systems by the union and the National Center for Improving Science Education. (See story, page 5)

Mr. Shanker, a longtime standards backer who was among the education leaders invited to the summit, said a statement would likely emerge from it urging employers to consider high school transcripts when making hiring decisions. He called such a move "a very good beginning" on the path to high standards.

"It recognizes that an incentive like that is powerful and is necessary," Mr. Shanker said.

'Best Practices'

At their pre-summit briefing for reporters, the chiefs' group urged summit participants to take full advantage of the new Telecommunications Act of 1996 by pushing for schools to get affordable rates for voice, video, and data-transmission services.

CCSSO officials said the group had already submitted its recommendations to the organizers of the March 26-27 summit at the International Business Machines Corp.'s conference center near New York City.

In those recommendations, the chiefs said responsibility for the standards-review process they propose should be shared among groups representing state officials, such as the chiefs; the NGA; and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Those groups would set up an independent panel--perhaps financed through foundations and fees to states--to carry out the reviews, said Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the CCSSO. Such a panel, the chiefs recommended, would have a diverse membership but would not include state officials, to avoid conflicts of interest.

The review process, the chiefs said, should both recommend ways state standards could be improved and recognize "best practices" among states.

The process should reward states that have high-quality standards with recognition modeled on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award program administered by the Department of Commerce. That program recognizes businesses for their commitment to improve the quality of their products.

The chiefs also called on state and business leaders to support multi-state consortia for sharing the costs of developing assessment systems as well as the expansion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress' state-level assessments and linking state assessment systems with NAEP.

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