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Education Week To Publish Annual Report on Reform

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The Pew Charitable Trusts has approved a three-year, $850,000 grant to the publishers of Education Week for an annual report on the condition of public education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Philadelphia-based foundation made the award last week to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation in Washington that publishes Education Week.

The first report, scheduled for release in January, is expected to include both statistics from each state and evaluations of that data. A narrative profile will examine each state's efforts to improve public education.

Ronald A. Wolk, the president of EPE and the publisher of Education Week, said the objective of the first-of-its-kind report is to provide information "an average citizen would need to evaluate the quality of public education in his or her state."

"We're going to try to focus attention on those characteristics of a public education system that are most likely to be effective in improving student achievement," Mr. Wolk said.

EPE has been mulling the idea of an annual report on the state of school reform since about 1988, Mr. Wolk said. He said he had tried unsuccessfully over the years to obtain foundation funding for such an effort.

Robert Schwartz, the education program director at Pew, said the foundation wanted to underwrite the project because of its ongoing support of school reform based on setting rigorous academic standards for students as well as the current lack of a similar collection of information.

"The goal here," he said, "is to create something that takes advantage of the best available indicators of progress, that is written in a way that is accessible to the general public, and that, while being basically kind of pro-reform in its orientation, will also be indEPEndent enough to make some judgment about how well we as a country are doing and how well each state is doing."

A Call for Accountability

The project comes as others are calling for such an effort. At the national education summit in March, the governors and corporate executives in attendance formally agreed to a separate endeavor to "establish an external, independent, nongovernmental effort to measure and report each state's annual progress" in setting standards, improving the quality of teaching, and incorporating technology into education. (See Education Week, April 3, 1996.)

The focus of the reporting is to hold governors and business leaders accountable for the commitments they made at the summit, said Patricia F. Sullivan, the director of education legislation at the National Governors' Association in Washington, which has shepherded summit-related activities.

The Pew/EPE annual report "is a much more extensive effort," Ms. Sullivan said. "We are not going to do that." But, she said, "I think it's great that they're out there taking on these issues."

"I think it's very complicated" to put together such a report, she added. "It's very difficult to find ways to evaluate this stuff in a way that holds up to criticism."

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