When the Council of Chief State School Officers met this month in Lexington, Ky., one of the meeting's highlights was a visit from Tadashi Ichikawa, the superintendent of schools in Tokyo, who said Japan is embarking on an American-style school reform.
"Our children have learned how to deal with multiple-choice answers, but on the creativity parts of exams, American children are much better than Japanese students," Mr. Ichikawa told the nation's top educators. "We want creativity on the minds of children instead of ... following patterns that are already set."
Japan, he said, is "entering into a new phase of major" school reforms, decentralizing school bureaucracies, allowing for more diverse curricula, and cutting back from six-day school weeks to five days by 2003.
During the meeting, Kentucky's education commissioner, Wilmer S. Cody, was inducted as the president of the organization for the next year. His priorities, he said, will be teacher and school administrator training.
Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson is one of 10 recipients of the 1998 Horatio Alger Awards.
The annual awards are presented by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, a nonprofit educational association that provides high school seniors with more than $1 million dollars in college scholarships each year.
The recipients, who were named last week, were chosen because they exemplified inspirational success, triumph over adversity, an uncommon commitment to helping others, and an exemplary example for America's youth, according to the Alexandria, Va.-based association.
They will be honored at the 51st annual awards ceremony next April in Washington.
Alice McDonald, Kentucky's superintendent of public instruction from 1984 to 1988 and the current executive director of the state's Governmental Services Center, has been suspended without pay from her current post while the state attorney general's office investigates whether she has used her office at the services center improperly.
Ms. McDonald, 57, has led the Governmental Services Center, a state agency that coordinates government workers' job training, since 1996. She earns $72,000 a year.
No formal charges have been filed.
--KERRY A. WHITE & KAREN ABERCROMBIE