As President Clinton signed his education-reform strategy into law last month, he set in motion a process that proponents hope will transform the federal role in education and raise expectations for American students and schools.
Mr. Clinton signed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy, a magnet school in San Diego, where the President and his family were vacationing.
Hailing the law as “a new and different approach for the federal government,’' he said the measure will establish “world class’’ national education standards and rely on school districts at the “grassroots’’ to help students achieve them.
A New Approach
He said the White House and Congress now have a “practical and moral obligation’’ to put their weight and influence behind the standards-setting movement.
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, who flew to San Diego for the ceremony, said passage of Goals 2000 is “another nail in the coffin of the legislative gridlock that existed until this Administration came to office.’'
He noted that the Administration views Goals 2000 as the framework that will support a revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Administration’s proposed “school-to-work opportunities act,’' and the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act--all of which are expected to be enacted this year.
The centerpiece of Goals 2000 is a new program, authorized at $400 million a year, that would provide grants to states and districts that adopt reform plans. The plans must call for setting high standards for curriculum content and student performance, as well as opportunity-to-learn standards or strategies for insuring adequate school services.
In its proposal to reauthorize the E.S.E.A., the Administration would require states and districts to set similar standards in exchange for Chapter 1 funds, an idea the House endorsed in passing its E.S.E.A. bill.
This represents a dramatic shift in the federal role in education, and some educators say it is about time.
“We now have a compact and partnership that will begin to allow us to work collaboratively together,’' said Pascal D. Forgione Jr., the superintendent of public instruction in Delaware. “It’s a wonderful affirmation that we’re heading in the right direction.’'
Thomas C. Boysen, the commissioner of education in Kentucky, said Goals 2000 is “as important as anything that’s happened [in federal education legislation] in the last 30 years.’'
But others--including some Goals 2000 supporters--are more skeptical, and fear that the program may lead to increased federal and state control over schools.
John A. Bonaiuto, the secretary of education in South Dakota, said that Goals 2000 “sounds appealing,’' but that the voluntary nature of participation in the program could slip away “once people begin to move in the same direction.’'
“I would be really disappointed if this were the first step toward having a national curriculum framework,’' he said.
Others say if the federal government increases its role, it should step up its financial support as well.
“Schools have a tough time doing the three R’s without doing the stuff that’s in [Goals 2000],’' said T. Chris Mattocks, the superintendent of Idaho Falls School District #91. “There’s not enough seed money to paint everybody the same color.’'
The Clinton Administration has already prepared an implementation strategy for Goals 2000 that calls for distributing initial grants this July. (See Education Week, March 30, 1994.)
Indeed, the reason Mr. Clinton did not wait to sign the measure here is that it had to be enacted by April 1 in order to make use of $105 million Congress appropriated to begin the program this year.
States and districts will not all move at the same pace, however.
Mr. Forgione and Mr. Boysen, for example, say their states are well on their way to adopting the reforms envisioned by Goals 2000.
In Delaware, lawmakers adopted a comprehensive reform package in 1992, and task forces are drafting curricular frameworks.
Last May, the state used interim assessments for all 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th graders. They will be used for four years until permanent assessments are developed.
Meanwhile, the state has enlisted the support of all 19 of its districts by placing district officials on all standards commissions and asking for a $5-per-student contribution to help implement the reforms.
“The challenge here is to empower the local school and classroom to take these standards and build their curricula around it,’' Mr. Forgione said.
But for other states and districts, Goals 2000 may be a spur to begin such a process.
Mr. Botaiuno of South Dakota said the state’s only current effort is developing mathematics and science standards as part of the National Science Foundation’s State Systemic Initiative.
“Now, it’s a matter of getting some information on [Goals 2000] and some idea how fast the Department of Education expects states to move,’' he said.
Mr. Mattucks of Idaho Falls said that the legislation will focus residents of his district on standards-setting, but that many associate Goals 2000 with values education and outcomes-based education.
“We have a strong element in the state that fears what comes down from Washington,’' he said.
A Long Road
Enactment of Goals 2000 is essentially the culmination of a process that began when the National Governors’ Association and President Bush agreed at a 1989 education summit to set national goals. Mr. Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, was a key player in drafting the goals and in setting up the National Education Goals Panel to monitor progress toward them.
Provisions to codify the six goals and resolve disputes over the goals panel found their way into bills Democrats drafted as alternatives to President Bush’s America 2000 proposal, as did a grant program that is the precursor to the one in Goals 2000. Those bills were derailed by partisan politics.
As the current version wound through the legislative process, provisions were added to create two new goals on teacher training and parent participation, and establish boards to oversee the setting of model national education and occupational-training standards.
A version of this article appeared in the April 06, 1994 edition of Education Week as With Students’ Aid, Clinton Signs Goals 2000