Content Groups' Help Sought in Shaping Standards Council

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The directors of the various disciplinary projects working to design national education standards agreed last week to prepare a white paper aimed at helping shape the council being created to certify the benchmarks.

The directors are taking the action at the behest of the National Education Goals Panel, one of four groups that will submit nominations to the White House for membership on the National Education Standards and Improvement Council. (See Education Week, May 18, 1994.)

Part of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the 19-member panel, called NESIC, is to approve voluntary national standards for curriculum content and student performance, as well as standards and assessments voluntarily submitted by states.

"If we don't respond to an invitation of this board, then we're missing an opportunity,'' said Anthony de Souza of the National Geographic Society, the director of the geography-standards project, which hosted the joint directors' meeting here.

The goals panel had sought the standards leaders' input in part because the Congressionally mandated composition of the standards council does not provide for the subject-matter expertise that the directors and members of their groups could offer.

Kenneth Nelson, the executive director of the goals panel, also argued that the leaders' voices could prove important in NESIC's formative stages to counter potential critics of the standards movement.

Subject Experts Urged

Participants at the meeting acknowledged that the paper submitted to the goals panel will not necessarily be a consensus document, nor will it address every issue in great detail.

But observers said it will raise several issues that concern the directors, such as the composition of the council, its review process, and the likelihood that it will seek a common core of standards.

Some of the directors were critical of the Clinton Administration and Congress for their omission of subject-specific scholars from the certification panel.

Emily Wurtz, a senior education associate for the goals panel, predicted that the council would assemble an advisory panel of experts to help it carry out its mandate.

"They know what they don't know,'' said Ms. Wurtz. "The last thing they want to do is to take a bold stance that will be called false and wrong-headed.''

Some of the project directors also expressed uneasiness with the concept that NESIC would seek a common core of standards, fearing that the content and uniqueness of the individual disciplines might be overlooked.

Three of the projects, meanwhile, are collaborating on a project to develop interrelated geography, civics, and history content standards for kindergarten through the 4th grade.

The three groups intend to produce a poster, brochure, and core document that set forth both the need to interrelate at that level and samples of how the project might work.

In a related development last week, the office of educational research and improvement in the Education Department agreed to fund an economics-standards project. The decision still needs the approval of Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

The National Council on Economic Education has been working on economics standards for the past two years, but progress has been slow without federal support.

If Washington decides to fund the project, however, other groups also would be eligible to compete for the grant, although officials said the council probably would have the initial advantage.

Robert Highsmith, a vice president of the economics council, said his group received its first outside financial support this month, in the form of a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Calvin Kazanjian Foundation.

Vol. 13, Issue 35

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