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'Entity' Has New Name and $5 Million in Support

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Governors and business leaders intent on establishing an entity to improve student standards, assessments, and accountability have christened their creation Achieve and raised about $5 million to support it.

The national information clearinghouse, which also plans to offer guidance on the effective use of technology to reach high standards, will be based in the greater Washington area and, if all goes according to plan, up and running by early next year, said Patricia F. Sullivan, the director of education legislation for the National Governors' Association. The Washington-based NGA has been helping to shepherd the organization's genesis and announced the group's latest plans last week.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Achieve will have a three- to four-person staff. The tricky part, however, will be finding an executive director who can satisfy the many and varied constituencies.

Achieve's board is seeking a "very senior person" from the education, corporate, or public service sector, Ms. Sullivan said.

Christopher T. Cross, the president of the Washington-based Council for Basic Education, which promotes high standards in schools, said it will be difficult to find someone to fill the position who has both credibility in the standards-setting field and is politically palatable to governors and the nation's leading executives.

The new group has been in the works since governors and business executives met at the national education summit in Palisades, N.Y., in March. At that time, they agreed to establish an independent, nongovernmental group to serve as a resource center for states, business leaders, and others. Until now, the new organization had been referred to only as "the entity." ("Summit Accord Calls for Focus on Standards," April 3, 1996, and "Dodging Controversy, Governors OK 'Entity' Without Name, Budget," Aug. 7, 1996.)

Achieve's supporters say its nongovernmental status sets it apart from the National Education Standards and Improvement Council. Created by Congress in 1994, the council succumbed to political pressure before any appointments were ever made.

Comparison Is Issue

With one exception, the 12 governors and business leaders who planned the summit now form the board of directors. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa declined to serve because of other commitments, and Republican Gov. George Voinovich of Ohio took his place, Ms. Sullivan said.

Achieve's co-chairmen are Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, a Republican, and Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of IBM. Its vice chairmen are Democratic Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado and John E. Pepper, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Procter & Gamble Co. Other directors are Republican Gov. John Engler of Michigan and Democratic Govs. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina and Bob Miller of Nevada, as well as the chairmen of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., the BellSouth Corp., the Eastman Kodak Co., and the Boeing Co. Mr. Miller is the current chairman of the NGA.

So far, Achieve has received about $5 million in pledges of financial support toward its goal of a $10 million budget over three years. Promises have come from corporations and foundations, including the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts. The Mobil Corp. and United Parcel Service of America Inc. have agreed to pitch in, and the six corporations with directors on the Achieve board have pledged to contribute $300,000 each over three years.

Achieve's goals include providing a program to compare standards and assessment tools among states and internationally and publishing an annual report that tracks progress toward achieving some of the commitments made at the summit.

Education experts last week praised the potential good Achieve could do--if its founders follow through. Denis P. Doyle, an education consultant, warned: "The real issue here is whether you can get governors to compare test scores the way they compare football scores." But, he added, "if they fail to do that, then the whole exercise will be in vain."

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