Carnegie Report Offers High-School Reform Plan
Washington--Asserting that "it is in the public school ... that the battle for the future of America will be won or lost," the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has concluded a three-year analysis of public secondary education with a series of detailed proposals for reforming and revitalizing the nation's high schools.
Excerpts from the reportbegin on page 16.
In a 355-page study written by Ernest L. Boyer, Carnegie's president, the foundation recommends that prospective teachers ma-jor in an academic subject rather than in education, that a new "core curriculum" replace the practice of "tracking" students according to academic ability, and that the use of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (sat) be abandoned in favor of a "more effective assessment and guidance program" that would offer a "more realistic portrait" of what students have learned in high school.
The foundation also urges that large, comprehensive high schools reorganize themselves into smaller units through the creation of "schools-within-schools," in order to "establish a more cohesive, more supportive social setting for all students."
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"We believe the preferred arrangement is to have bigness and smallness--a broad education program with supportive social arrangements," Mr. Boyer writes.
The Carnegie Foundation strongly endorses the concept of free, public education. "It is in the public school that this nation has chosen to pursue enlightened ends for all its people. And this is where the battle for the future of America will be won or lost," Mr. Boyer asserts. The study was released late last week.
Arguing that a primary purpose of schooling is the development of students' "understanding of their civic and social responsibilities," the foundation proposes "a new Carnegie Unit" that would require all students to participate in some form of community service.
The theme of the report, Mr. Boyer writes, is "quality in education." But he warns that "in the great debate about public schools, equity must be seen not as a chapter of the past, but as the unfinished agenda of the future. To expand access [to schooling] without upgrading the schools is simply to perpetuate discrimination in a more subtle form."
It is vital, therefore, to focus now on improving the schools, according to Mr. Boyer. But to do so "in ways that ignore the needs of less privileged students is to undermine the future of the nation," he warns.
Mr. Boyer also suggests in the report that the failure of many students to learn in school today is not solely, or even primarily, the result of weaknesses in the schools themselves. Rather, he says, the cause lies in a broader failure of society to contribute to the mission of the schools.
"Only by deepening support can schools improve," Mr. Boyer writes, adding that "a report card on public education is a report card on the nation."
As a result, the foundation recommends that parents, universities, and representatives from business work much more closely with the schools from now on.
Mr. Boyer said last week that the study, entitled High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America, offers a view of the condition of the nation's schools different from that of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, which several months ago concluded that there is "a rising tide of mediocrity" within the schools.
He said in an interview that, on the contrary, "serious efforts at reform" now under way in many states are "causing the tide of mediocrity to recede."
Nonetheless, Mr. Boyer criticized public high schools for poor leadership, a misfocused curriculum, and a climate not conducive to learning. Many of the foundation's recommendations address these issues, he said.
Distinguishing its viewpoint from that of the current Administration, the Carnegie report argues for what Mr. Boyer described last week as an "active," though "modest," role for the federal government in improving the performance of the country's 16,000 high schools.
The foundation recommends, for example, that more money be allocated to the Chapter 1 program for disadvantaged students and that the government establish a "School Building and Equipment Fund," in the spirit of the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, to help rebuild schools and science laboratories.
It also recommends that the government pay, through a "National Teacher Service," for college scholarships to high-school students who agree to teach for three years in the public schools.
Asked whether the Reagan Administration is doing an adequate job of leading the current efforts to reform the schools, Mr. Boyer said: "So far, there has not been an adequate national response, and the signals for the future are unclear and in the main not very encouraging."
The report took three years to complete and included an extended investigation, by teams of 25 educators, of 15 schools across the nation with varying characteristics.
The Carnegie Foundation will use a $1.8-million grant from the Atlantic Richfield Foundation to make awards in coming months to help implement its proposed reforms.
Two types of grants will be made, according to Mr. Boyer.
A number of $1,000 planning grants will be made to principals who wish to study ways of upgrading their schools.
Fewer grants of between $35,000 and $100,000 will be made to schools to implement the reforms proposed in the report.
The grants will be administered by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The foundation has also produced a one-hour film report based on its study that will be aired on the Public Broadcasting System on Nov. 30.
The greatest number of the foundation's recommendations are intended to improve the teaching in high schools. In addition to the proposals that new teachers be required to earn a degree in the subject they will teach and that the federal government fund a scholarship program for bright students who go into the profession, the foundation recommends that all new teachers spend their first year as "apprentices," teaching part time under the tutelage of experienced colleagues, and taking courses in pedagogy that focus on such things as learning theory and the teaching of writing.
It also recommends the establishment of a "career ladder" to reward top teachers and the recognition of excellence in teaching through such programs as a "Teacher Travel Fund" and a "Summer Study Term." Currently, the lack of such rewards, and other "day-to-day conditions, are killing the profession," Mr. Boyer said last week.
"The nation has mistakenly come to view the sat as a reliable report card on the nation's schools," Mr. Boyer writes. Moreover, he adds, "the sat is not very helpful in predicting how a student is likely to do in college."
The foundation is also critical of school administrators. Inadequate training of principals, the lack of a clear mission for the schools, and a lack of decision-making authority at the school level, Mr. Boyer writes in the report, has created "a crisis of leadership" within the high schools, a condition that "seriously undermines" their effectiveness.
To rectify the situation, he proposes that all candidates for principalships earn a liberal-arts degree, complete his recommended teaching apprenticeship, teach for at least two years, earn an advanced degree in administration, complete a one-year "administrative internship," and work for two years as an assistant principal before assuming a full principalship.
Asserting that "school leadership is crippled by layer upon layer of administration," the foundation further recommends decentralization of staffing and budgetary decisions to allow school-level administrators more autonomy.
The recommendation of a core curriculum is made in part, Mr. Boyer writes, because the typical high school is "adrift" without "a clear mission," and in part because the stigma that academic tracking often attaches to students in vocational and other programs must be eliminated, in the foundation's view.
But Carnegie's proposed curriculum, which includes courses in civics, non-Western studies, and a foreign language, is also intended, Mr. Boyer said, to prepare students for "a rapidly changing world."
"If education cannot help students see beyond themsleves and better understand the interdependent nature of our world, each new generation will remain ignorant and its capacity to live confidently and responsibly wil be dangerously diminished," he writes in the report.
Mr. Boyer said the likelihood of substantial reform in the schools depends on an agreement among policymakers on "practical moves" that can be taken immediately. "Unfortunately," he said, "I don't see many themes that people are getting behind. The debate so far has been politically motivated and focused on merit pay, with the President and the unions attacking each other. The public has been left out of it."
Vol. 03, Issue 03