Achieve Says Many States Are On Track Toward Summit Goals
Five weeks before an April 1 deadline set at the National Education Summit last fall, more than half the states have indicated they will file plans that describe specific, measurable steps they will take to meet the priorities outlined there by governors, educators, and business leaders.
At the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 gathering in Palisades, N.Y., participants committed to an agenda that included improving educator quality, creating opportunities for all students to meet high standards, strengthening accountability, and building public support for such efforts.("Teaching Tops Agenda at Summit," Oct. 6, 1999.)
Summit participants gave themselves until April to draw up their plans, which will be available on the World Wide Web site for Achieve Inc. at www.achieve.org.
The nonprofit group, based in Cambridge, Mass., was founded by governors and business leaders in 1996 to promote standards-based school improvement and was the principal sponsor for the summit.
"This is a very encouraging response," Robert B. Schwartz, the president of Achieve, said last week. "Obviously, we hope the other states will take notice and also follow suit."
Based on their review of governors' State of the State Addresses, Achieve staff members found that at least 34 governors discussed efforts to improve educator quality; 24 committed to helping students achieve higher standards; and 26 proposed strengthening accountability systems.
In his annual speech on the state of American education last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley suggested that it might be time for a "midcourse" review of the standards movement, and he proposed some principles to guide state action.
Based on what Achieve is seeing, Mr.
Schwartz said, "we've got a whole bunch of states that clearly are
working away on some of the same problems, issues, and challenges that
Efforts Under Way
While Mr. Schwartz did not claim that the summit had directly generated the states' activities, he said that the statement approved by its participants had helped capture a growing consensus about the areas in which state efforts should be focused.
For example, Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, a Republican who is a co-chairman of Achieve, has proposed a pay-for-performance plan for teachers and other staff members that will provide monetary rewards for educators who raise schoolwide performance from year to year.
Illinois is considering establishing a "regional teacher-academy network" to provide standards-based professional development for the state's teaching force. Washington state plans to reduce class sizes in the early elementary grades, enhance preschool options for at-risk children, and provide extra learning opportunities for students who may not meet the standards.
And New Jersey is building a statewide coalition of business leaders, education groups, and nonprofit organizations, called New Jersey United for High Standards, to raise public awareness about the importance of standards-based school improvement.
Vol. 19, Issue 25, Page 17