S.R.E.B. Goals Called Model for National Strategy

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Williamsburg, Va.--Legislators from 15 Southern states met here this month to ponder their role in the national goal-setting effort for the schools launched by President Bush's education summit.

The 120 lawmakers met under the auspices of the Southern Regional Education Board, which last spring formulated its own set of 12 educational objectives for the region to meet by the year 2000.

The board was "ahead of the curve" in setting goals for education, Charles E. Smith, Tennessee's commissioner of education, told the legislators.

Many participants at the meeting here observed that the agreement signed at the Charlottesville, Va., summit last month appears to have been modeled after the sreb package.

The sreb goals include preparing all children for the 1st grade, bringing the region's achievement scores up to the national average, reducing the dropout rate by half, better preparing students for college, increasing teacher salaries to a more competitive level, and improving higher education.

Legislators Play Key Role

Mark D. Musick, president of the board, told the lawmakers that they must play a vital role in helping their states reach those goals.

In this decade, he said, the governorship of most Southern states has changed parties, and many governors who led the initial education-reform efforts are now out of office.

Given such turnover, Mr. Musick said, "legislators have to provide the staying power for long-term improvements" in education.

The bulk of the meeting was devoted to discussing strategies for meeting the sreb goals.

Lynn M. Cornett, the board's vice president for state services, said that most states need to start by collecting better information, specifically related to early-childhood programs.

Of the 15 member states, only two could provide information on the number of 1st graders who had attended kindergarten or a prekindergarten program, Ms. Cornett noted.

Only two states could identify at-risk students in the early grades, she said, while only South Carolina collects information on the readiness of 1st graders.

Robert Stoltz, the sreb's vice president for educational policies, made a similar complaint about public schools' efforts to prepare students for college and gather information on their graduates' readiness for postsecondary education.

"The state of information in regard to these indicators is deplorable," Mr. Stoltz said.

Vol. 09, Issue 07

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