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Business Group Publishes Guide to Standards Reform

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Many prominent members of the business community have been at the forefront of the movement calling for students to meet rigorous academic standards.

Now, the Business Roundtable has published a guide that describes just what is meant by standards-based reform, ways to surmount potential obstacles, and the varied roles that business can play. The New York City-based group is made up of the chief executives of the nation's largest corporations.

"We created this guide to help business leaders get involved--and stay involved--in setting standards in their states and communities," Norman R. Augustine, the chairman of the group's education task force, writes in the foreword to "A Business Leader's Guide to Setting Academic Standards," which is to be released this week.

"There is no single model for how business people can most effectively help set academic standards," says Mr. Augustine, the vice chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Md. "But equally clear are some lessons learned from mistakes made by others and from their successes. Following the guidelines in this book does not ensure perfection, but it does prevent reinventing the wheel."

The guide includes the various options that business leaders can pursue--from mobilizing public support to helping write the standards.

In Fort Worth, Texas, for example, 300 companies took part in a study that analyzed the tasks and knowledge needed for 900 jobs. The analysis showed that 72 percent of the jobs required a high level of mathematics. As a result, low-level math courses have been eliminated from the district's curriculum and advanced courses are now required, according to the guide.

Sharing Advice

In the 34-page publication, business executives offer tips from their work with standards.

Joe Miller, a senior vice president and the chief technology officer at the Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont company, served as co-chairman of Delaware's science-standards committee. He advises newcomers that the process is time-consuming and lengthy, that teachers must be involved, and that they must become knowledgeable about the subject. Moreover, Mr. Miller recommends that companies assign high-level employees to the project to show their commitment to standards.

The guide also outlines the issues that are likely to engender debate, such as: "Should standards be discipline-based or interdisciplinary?" "Should standards be specific or general?" and "Are nonacademic standards appropriate?"

It then follows up with examples of the different approaches. Colorado, on one hand, used a discipline-based approach, while Kentucky took the interdisciplinary route.

Although the Business Roundtable lays out options rather than endorsing a single position on most issues, it urges executives to champion tying academic standards to student assessments and to benchmarking.

A list of additional resources, several groups' criteria for judging standards, and a glossary are included.

For More Information:

Copies of the guide are available free from the Business Roundtable. Fax name and mailing address to Carole Kelley at (202) 466-3509.

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