Looking to 2000?
Calling for a "grand compromise" that he says is needed to save public education, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., has unveiled a far-reaching school reform plan--and possibly signaled his aspirations for higher office.
The senator, now in his third term, envisions an education system in which every school is a charter school, teachers don't necessarily have to hold a degree in education, and summer school is required for high school students who can't pass reading and mathematics tests, he said in a June 16 commencement address at Northeastern University in Boston.
The speech, which touched on themes often favored by many Republicans, was seen as part of a move by Mr. Kerry to test the waters for a possible presidential campaign in two years. Its impact will likely be monitored closely by other prospective Democratic contenders as they consider their own education agendas.
Vice President Al Gore, seen as his party's front-runner for the 2000 presidential nomination, has long made education technology a priority.
In his address, Sen. Kerry said most reform attempts "are now only tinkering at edges carefully circumscribed by political timidity and powerful interest groups."
The senator also backed replacing teacher tenure with a "fair-dismissal policy," which would include due process for teachers, and establishing teacher-evaluation processes coupled with colleague mentoring and professional-development opportunities.
Widely publicized research suggests that teenagers' internal clocks are set so they are most alert in the late-night hours and groggy in the early morning.
Now, Congress is taking note.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., late last month joined a panel of prominent sleep researchers at a Washington news conference to announce her "Z's to A's" bill, which would give districts grants of up to $25,000 to change their high school starting times--in some places, as early as 7 a.m.--to 9 a.m. or later.
Ms. Lofgren has also introduced a nonbinding resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that secondary schools should consider starting school after 9 a.m."
The mother of two teenagers argues that later starting times would not only help raise academic achievement, but also cut down on juvenile crime in afternoon hours.
--JOETTA L. SACK [email protected]
Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 26