The National Education Goals Panel offered familiar strategies to help schools succeed in a report released here last week. Setting high expectations for all students, consistent policies on reform, and clear accountability procedures were among the practices the report’s authors recommended.
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The federally financed panel of state and national policymakers is charged with tracking progress toward the eight national education goals established in the early 1990s. Although those goals were supposed to be met this year, the panel is still working toward achieving them.
In previous years, the goals panel has issued an annual report on the nation’s progress toward achieving the goals. The panel issued no such report this year, however, because the body is planning to issue a 10-year assessment of schools’ progress in February.
Instead, this year the panel sponsored four hearings—in Alhambra, Calif.; Atlanta; Burlington, Vt.; and Chicago—to learn more about the strategies certain schools and districts are using to succeed. Last week’s study focused on the findings from those hearings.
“I came away from these four field hearings optimistic about education reform,” Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, the Republican who chairs the panel, said during a news conference held to unveil the findings and related recommendations last week.
In each of the hearings the panel conducted between May and October of this year, certain common themes emerged. Drawing on the themes, the goals panel drafted a list of recommendations that will be distributed in the form of a letter to governors and policymakers in every state by the end of the year.
The panel’s first recommendation involves overhauling leadership development in education. Many states, the report says, have understandably focused more on hiring well- qualified teachers than on grooming school leaders.
High-achieving schools “typically do have strong leaders,” Emily Wurtz, a senior education associate for the goals panel, said during the news conference.
Achievement can also be bolstered through investment in high-quality professional development for teachers and partnerships between higher education institutions and schools, the report says.
John R. McKernan, the Republican former governor of Maine who chairs the panel’s “measuring success” task force, also addressed the goals panel last week on the need for additional and more current testing data—a concern that the panel has raised previously. ( “Key Governors Want NAEP Given More Often,” March 8, 2000.)
There has been “problem gathering sufficient data to judge the progress that this country is making,” Mr. McKernan said.
He recommended splitting the National Assessment of Educational Progress into two sections, each of which would be administered every other year to keep the data fresh and to ensure that the tests remained in the spotlight. Core subjects in NAEP are currently tested every other year on a rotating basis, while other subjects are tested infrequently.
Mr. McKernan also advocated increasing the budget for the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics and providing federal subsidies to underwrite some of the costs schools encounter when administering NAEP tests.
Gov. Thompson called Mr. McKernan’s comments on data crucial. If the goals panel does not follow up on the issue, he said, “I’m not sure that the [panel] should even continue to be in existence.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2000 edition of Education Week as Goals Panel Draws On Lessons From Hearings