First Report on National Education GoalsSeen Unlikely To Galvanize Major Change
By Robert Rothman
Washington--Although the forth0 coming "report card" on the national 0 education goals could set an agenda 0 for school improvement, it is unlikely 0 by itself to spur changes, according to 0 educators and state officials.$
The elements of the report, which is 0 scheduled to be released Sept. 30, L0 were ironed out at a meeting here this 0 month by the National Education L0 Goals Panel, a group of governors and 0 Bush Administration officials that is 0 charged with monitoring progress to0 ward the targets.0
Resolving an issue that had cen0 tered on the goal of school readiness, 0 the report will reflect a compromise 0 between members who wanted the 0 document to include only "outcome" 0 measures and those who wanted it 0 also to contain information on objec0 tives for attaining the goals.$8
Under the compromise, the panel 0 agreed that the report will be in two 0 parts. The first will contain data L0 that directly measure the goals, L$such as high-school-completion L rates, scores on the National Assess0 ment of Educational Progress, and 0 surveys of student drug use in L$schools. The second part is to include 0 measures of objectives, such as the 0 number of students in preschool pro0 grams and course-taking in mathe0 matics and science.
The panel settled another contentious issue by agreeing to include a 0 report on the federal role in educa0 tion. That report will outline finan0 cial support, support for research L0 and development, and flexibility in $mandates.$,
Will Report Have Impact?-(
Panel members said here that al0 though the data will be imperfect 0 and incomplete, the report as a L$whole will help concentrate the na0 tion's attention on the goals.$>2
"We are talking about putting a fo0 cus on what is important for the coun0 try," said Secretary of Education LaH0 mar Alexander. "That's the most L$important thing that could happen to 0 transform American education."$8
But observers argued that this L0 year's report may not produce the 0 kinds of changes the panel members 0 hope for. Because nearly all the L0 measures the panel selected have L0 been released already, some conL$tended, the report is less likely to 0 galvanize the nation into action.
In addition, they noted, the report contains little information that L$ could guide schools toward achiev ing the goals.$
"There is little doubt it is of value to have a focus on efforts to improve schools," said Gordon Cawelti, ex ecutive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum De8velopment. "You can't do everyL thing; this gives direction to them."
"But I am skeptical that it will produce substantial movement un less more is done," he added. "[Their approach seems to be], now we've got the goals, we'll produce report cards, and see what happens."
"The history of real movement in education doesn't work that way," Mr. Cawelti said.$
"It's a good way of organizing," add ed Gordon M. Ambach, executive di rector of the Council of Chief State School Officers. "Whether it will drive change remains to be seen."
$Compromise on Readiness(
The panel's first report is expected to serve as a "baseline" in tracking progress toward the goals that L$ President Bush and the governors set for the end of the decade.
In a joint statement issued last year, the chief executives pledged that, by the year 2000: All children will start school ready to learn; the high-school graduation rate will in crease to at least 90 percent; Ameri can students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated compe tency in challenging subject matter; U.S. students will be first in the L world in science and mathematics achievement; every adult American will be literate; and every school will be free of drugs.
But other panelists warned that 0 the inclusion of such measures L$might put pressure on states to al0 ter their policies. They argued that 0 the indirect measures should be in0 cluded in an appendix to the report, 0 and that the main 1991 report L$hould include no measure of L$school readiness. (See Education L$Week, June 12, 1991.)0
In the compromise reached this 0 month, the panel agreed to put the 0 indirect measures in the second part 0 of the report, but to bind the two 0 parts together in a single volume.$ "I believe the way the report is or0 ganized, yes, [the indirect measures] 0 are in the main body of the report," 0 said Governor Romer. "The compro0 mise we worked out indicates the L0 panel takes seriously the objectives."0
In addition to working out an L0 agreement on the readiness issue, 0 the panel decided to include three 0 measures of student citizenship,L4which is part of the goal of student achievement.$
The panel agreed to include in the 0 report data from the 1988 naep civ0 ics assessment; student voter-regis0 tration information; and results L$from a survey of 10th graders on 0 community service.
In the area of high-school comple0 tion, the panel agreed to report data 0 on the percentage of 19- and 20-L0 year-olds and 24- and 25-year-olds 0 who have completed high school, the 0 number of students who drop out of 0 school, and the number of dropouts 0 who complete high school.
"We want to advertise that if you 0 drop out, it doesn't mean you have to 0 stay out," said Gov. John A. Ashcroft 0 of Missouri.
The panel also agreed that the 0 report on the drug-free-schools L$ goal should include data on stuL dent drug use in school, but that in formation on the total number of students involved with illegal L$ drugs should be in the second part of the report.$
"If we are surveying students on the use of illegal drugs," said Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Car olina, "the question comes, how are we going to hold the school responsi ble for the acts of kids on the week end, or away from school?"0
Members also agreed to report the incidence of violence in schools and student perceptions of school safety.
On the adult-literacy goal, the L panel decided to report data from a 1986 survey of young adults, as well as a Labor Department survey of L participants in the Job TrainingL08Partnership Act and recipients of L unemployment insurance.0
'There Will Be Gaps' (
Governor Romer acknowledged L$ that the 1991 report will contain L substantial gaps in areas where the data sources are inadequate or not available. But he added that the L panel will continue to work to devel op new systems of assessment to im prove the report.
The panel has created a council on standards and testing to consider L the feasibility of a national system of examinations to measure student achievement, for example, as well as a task force to come up with a plan for an assessment of children's L$ readiness for school.0
"One of the larger messages of the report card is, this is what it will look like," Governor Romer said. L "There will be gaps in it. But the gaps themselves are a report."$.
Governor Campbell predicted L$ that the reports will drive the coun try to achieve the goals.$ 1
"When the measures are better," he said, "the education system will respond freely to the data as they adapt and produce a system that L will make us more competitive."0
Mark D. Musick, president of the Southern Regional Education L0 Board, agreed that additional data would improve the value of future $ reports.$/;
"I have very realistic expectations about the first report," he said. L$ "Three years from now, the national and state reports are going to be a whole lot better than in 1991."$
Vol. 10, Issue 40