State Boards Expect Demography To Influence Reform

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Dearborn, Mich.--Identifying emerging societal trends and shaping policies accordingly will be one of the major tasks facing state boards of education as they enter the "second generation" of the current wave of school reform, members of the National Association of State Boards of Education said at their annual meeting here this month.

"State boards of education need to reflect on their activities during the past few months of reform and re-examine them against the realities of changing demographics," explained Phyllis L. Blaunstein, nasbe's executive director. "It's an important task for the state boards because most of the money that went into school reform during the past few years came from the state level."

Demographic Shifts Noted

"We know that in some states we are going to see minorities becoming the majority population," Ms. Blaunstein continued. "We're also being told that the majority of new jobs in the future are going to be of the service type, requiring only a high-school diploma. And we also know that the number of elderly people is surpassing the number of adolescents in the country. These are the kinds of issues that state boards are going to have to grapple with."

Changes in the job market and the ethnic composition of the student population may have implications for curricula and high-school graduation requirements, she added. "On the question of the aging of the population, we need to determine the potential fiscal impact of the reduction in the number of people with a direct stake in public education. Also, we need to begin viewing this segment of the population as a new clientele."

Strategic Planning

Long-range planning is an activity unfamiliar to many state boards, according to Dorothy Gotlieb, a member of the Colorado state board who took part in a nasbe-sponsored symposium on strategic planning in education in Breckinridge, Colo., this summer.

"What we did for years was a lot of tactical planning. We would listen to criticism and react," Ms. Gotlieb said. "We really haven't looked at strategic planning, and we should."

"It's hard to plan for a world you can't foresee, but it's something we have to start doing," added Barbara Dumouchelle, a member of the Michigan state board. "I think a lot of states may have acted in haste last year. They saw it simply as a window of opportunity for enacting reforms."

According to Jolly Ann Davidson, a member of the Iowa state board and immediate past president of nasbe, the adoption of comprehensive long-range plans by state boards will help sustain confidence in public education.

"Back in the 1950's after Sputnik was launched, state boards did a lot and then sat back," she said. "We can't afford to let that happen again. Now that we have reform efforts in place, there's still a gigantic job to do. We have to ensure that these programs are effective and make changes in them if necessary."

Vol. 04, Issue 08

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