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Many Urban Districts Are AdoptingContent Standards, Survey Reveals

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One of the primary goals of standards-based education has been equity--ensuring that all students are exposed to top-notch curricula and instruction.

Many of the nation's large urban school districts are striving to meet that goal, according to a survey released last month. By creating academic-content standards and revising student assessments, the urban districts hope to give their students academic opportunities on a par with those in more-affluent suburban districts.

More than three-fourths of the districts responding to the survey conducted by the Council of the Great City Schools said they were writing content standards; 85 percent of the respondents said they were changing their assessment systems to bring them in line with new national, state, or local standards.

"With this work, the Great City Schools are affirming that urban students can learn challenging content and skills, regardless of whether they come from low-income families or face other special needs," said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based group.

Thirty-six of the council's 48 members responded to the survey, which was conducted in May 1995. Among those responding were some of the largest districts in the country, including Chicago, Dade County, Fla., Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, and Philadelphia.

State Involvement

Although one district said it had started the process as early as the 1985-86 school year, most of the work on standards has begun since 1993.

More than one-third of the districts said their standards efforts were part of broader statewide initiatives. Only two said they were working solely in response to the federal Goals 2000 law that provides school-reform funding in return for setting standards.

Most districts surveyed said their standards-setting would go beyond the core areas of mathematics, science, English-language arts, and history. For their local versions, 69 percent relied on both the voluntary national standards, which have been crafted in a dozen disciplines, and those being put together by their own states.

Moreover, a large majority said their state education departments were deeply involved and very helpful in the preparation of district standards. Far fewer--only 11 districts--reported that they had involved parents, but no mention was made of their helpfulness.

All but one district reported that standards would be used to design assessments. Nearly as many said the content standards would be used to write curricula or performance standards.

For More Information:

"Becoming the Best--Standards and Assessment Development in the Great City Schools'' includes thumbnail sketches of districts' and states' standards-setting efforts and a resource section. Single copies are available for $19.95 plus $1.50 for shipping from the Council of the Great City Schools, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 702, Washington, D.C. 20004; (202) 393-2427.

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