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NGA Approves Group To Aid in Standards-Setting Efforts

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A group that would serve as a clearinghouse for standards and assessment has taken its first step toward becoming a reality.

In a meeting here last week, the leadership of the National Governors' Association signed off on the creation of such an organization but approved only an outline of its responsibilities.

The "entity," as it has been called since the idea emerged in March at the national education summit, would provide funding for technical assistance and be a source for states and school districts trying to set rigorous academic standards and conduct related assessments of student achievement.

The planned group does not yet have a name or a projected budget. And groundwork, such as assembling a staff, may not begin until the entity receives the backing of the full NGA membership. The governors are to vote on the new group at their annual meeting in Puerto Rico in July, according to Patricia F. Sullivan, the director of education legislation at the NGA.

An Independent Entity

The education summit at the IBM conference center in Palisades, N.Y., drew 40 governors and 49 leading business executives. It was co-hosted by Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the governors' association and a member of its executive committee, and Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of the International Business Machines Corp. (See Education Week, April 3, 1996.)

The governors who attended the summit promised to establish internationally competitive standards, assessments, and accountability systems within two years. And the summit's organizers--six governors and six CEOs, including Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gerstner--promised to design an "independent, nongovernmental entity" to provide guidance and assistance for those activities.

Under the proposal adopted last week, which could change before the governors meet in July, those same 12 governors and business executives initially will govern the new entity and have the help of a small staff. The group would be independent and would seek funding from a variety of sources, including private and corporate foundations, the proposal says.

Among other activities, the new group would provide support for states, school districts, public or private schools, businesses, and parent organizations that want to compare existing or proposed standards and assessments with those used elsewhere. But it would not certify or approve any specific tests or standards, officials said.

It also would promote increased public dialogue on education issues and provide funding for independent efforts to measure and report each state's annual progress toward meeting commitments made at the summit.

Of the six governors at the executive committee meeting, only Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich, a Republican, voted against moving forward with the entity.

According to Ms. Sullivan, Mr. Voinovich was concerned that confusion could arise among private funders if they were asked to contribute to the new group and to a separate effort the association is undertaking to reorganize its own nonprofit arm, currently called the NGA Center for Policy Research.

In addition to Govs. Thompson and Voinovich, Democratic Govs. Roy Romer of Colorado, Bob Miller of Nevada, and Howard Dean of Vermont and Republican Gov. Michael O. Leavitt of Utah attended the executive committee meeting.

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