Honig Blueprint Favors District Takeovers
California schools that perform above state standards should be rewarded, and those that do not should be brought under state control, recommends Bill Honig, superintendent of public instruction, in a draft of new proposals for sustaining and broadening the state's effort to reform education.
The 26-page draft of "Agenda for the 21st Century: A Blueprint for K-12 Education" chronicles the progress made since a major reform package was passed by the legislature in 1983 and outlines a variety of steps Mr. Honig says should be taken in the future.
Mr. Honig released his blueprint Oct. 29 in an appearance before Gov. George Deukmejian's Commission on Educational Quality, which is conducting its own assessment of the reforms.
Earlier this year, the Governor and the superintendent engaged in a prolonged and vitriolic debate over the adequacy of the state education budget and the achievements of the 1983 reform program. Mr. Honig's report does not include an estimate of the cost of the new steps he is proposing.
"We have developed a clear blueprint of what is needed to make our schools better," Mr. Honig says in the report. "Now this vision must be translated into reality in every classroom."
California should continue on the reform course it has already charted, he says, which would entail further steps to raise graduation standards, strengthen the curriculum, improve textbooks, broaden student-performance indicators, and encourage the assignment of more homework.
But several initiatives that would lead in new directions should also be explored, he adds, including a proposal to establish state authority to take control of academically failing schools.
"Schools that are consistently not performing and are showing insufficient improvement should be subject to intervention by the state department of education," he suggests.
Under his proposal, schools would be notified if they failed to meet statewide objectives, "and local help would be suggested." If the school continued to show insufficient progress after three years, control would pass to a state-appointed trustee.
"A system should be devised to reward schools that are performing well and give them the opportunity to play leadership roles," Mr. Honig adds. The superintendent does not further specify what form the rewards would take.
Governor Deukmejian also endorses the idea of using rewards and punishments to hold schools more accountable for student achievement, Mr. Honig notes.
Other proposals outlined in the blueprint include:
Requiring prospective teachers to complete five years of academic training and a one-year residency program in order to be licensed.
Establishing 12 professional-development schools, where certified teachers would receive further training under the guidance of "exemplary'' teachers.
Reducing class sizes to accommodate the demands of a more rigorous curriculum.
Granting parents more choice re4garding their children's education.
Increasing child-care, preschool, and kindergarten options to reflect the changing needs of society.
Streamlining and improving categorical programs to respond to the increasing diversity of the student population.
Establishing a sound financial base "so that education receives adequate funding and school finance is taken out of the political arena."
Revamping the system for financing school construction and renovation.
"California needs to build 10 classrooms every day, seven days a week, for the next six years, just to accommodate a flood of new students entering the state's school system," Mr. Honig says.
The draft agenda is being circulated for review and comments. The final version will be released early next year.
Copies of the draft can be obtained from the Publications Office, California Department of Education, P.O. Box 271, Sacramento, Calif. 95802-0271.
Vol. 07, Issue 10