Goals-Setting Spurs Outreach Efforts To State and Local Education Groups
By Reagan Walker
The national effort to set education goals has already reaped important dividends at the state and local levels, governors and state policymakers said last week.
The goals-setting process has prompted governors to sponsor a variety of outreach activities with state and local educators, they noted, and it has spurred some states to set their own goals or to revamp ones set in the past.
Since last August, when the President invited the governors to join him in Charlottesville, Va., for the education summit a month later, the governors in all 50 states have sponsored some type of forum to meet with educators and others interested in school restructuring.
Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, chairman of the n.g.a., said, "The governors' individual efforts in the states were a critical part of the multistage process to develop the national education goals."
The governors' outreach activities have taken many forms.
Some have held informal discussions with representatives from education, business, and parents' groups; others have staged one- or two-day "mini-summits" at their statehouses, and others have hosted a series of meetings throughout their states.
In Arkansas, for instance, Gov. Bill Clinton held meetings in 75 counties to find out "what people think about education and what we have to do if we hope to provide our children with the skills they must have to make it in what we know will be a very tough, competitive world economy." The meetings were open to anyone who wanted to attend.
In Arizona, Gov. Rose Mofford held a two-day conference on school restructuring with 150 business, education, legislative, and community leaders.
And in Maine, Gov. John R. McKernan held a series of regional meetings designed to outline key education goals for his state.
Taken as a group, some say, the activities and discussions about education that have occurred during the past six months have been at the highest level since the landmark report A Nation At Risk was released in 1983.
Many governors and educators and are quick to point out that most states and many local districts have already set education goals relevant to both regional and national needs.
In a recent survey by the Education Commission of the States, 31 states reported that they have adopted statewide performance goals in the past few years.
The goals in those 31 states have been diverse, with some dealing exclusively with what goes on in the classroom, such as improving test scores and increasing graduation rates.
Other states, such as Kansas and Vermont, have developed goals for such other issues as improving school climates and raising expectations for all students.
Of the 31 states, 73 percent have set out to develop a more challenging curriculum. Half have set a goal for improving the way schools are governed and funded, and a third have set out to restructure their en4tire education systems.
In Mississippi, for example, Gov. Ray Mabus unveiled a set of goals and strategies for meeting the targets soon after the education summit last September.
His package touches on virtually every aspect of the school system. The legislature is expected to approve bills incorporating Mr. Mabus's package this month.
Mark Musick, president of the Southern Regional Education Board, said the process of setting national education goals "has reinvigorated and inspired" the efforts of state legislatures and school boards in education.
He said it is important that the goals-setting efforts involve such officials.
"Those entities can provide continuity to restructuring because they tend not to turn over as often as the governor's office," Mr. Musick said. This year, he noted, more than 30 governors are up for re-election.
Donald Bemis, the state school chief in Michigan, agreed that state school boards must be involved in goals-setting activities. Mr. Bemis said he plans to ask the Michigan board to adopt the national goals as state targets this week.