Ridge Seeks To Make O.B.E. Targets Voluntary

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Gov. Tom Ridge wants to reopen Pennsylvania's hard-fought decision to adopt an outcomes-based-education framework statewide.

In announcing his education plan last month, the Republican Governor criticized the state's performance-based graduation requirements for high school as too vague and said he will ask lawmakers to make them voluntary for school districts.

The state school board adopted the learning targets two years ago--during the tenure of Mr. Ridge's Democratic predecessor, Robert P. Casey--after a battle that was one of the earliest and most bitter O.B.E. fights in the country. (See Education Week, 4/14/93.)

Peg Luksik, one of the leading opponents of the state's O.B.E. plan and an independent candidate for governor last fall, hailed Mr. Ridge's decision.

"We're real glad that candidate Ridge included that in his campaign platform," she said. "And we're very glad that he has followed through on his campaign promise and will eliminate the requirements as a mandate."

But those who supported the graduation requirements said the move contradicts Mr. Ridge's goal of giving communities more control of their schools.

To help students meet the learning targets, districts have brought together parents and local leaders, said Jan W. Hoffman, the associate director of the Pennsylvania School Reform Network, an education coalition.

"This is the first time that we have seen communities actually involved in creating reform standards for their local schools," she said.

One-third of the state's 501 districts are scheduled to phase in the requirements for incoming freshmen this fall. But until the legislature acts on the Governor's proposal, school officials said everyone is in limbo.

"This becomes a very difficult issue," said Winston Cleland, the superintendent of the 2,900-student West Perry district in the south-central part of the state. "We've had parents and teachers and community members give more than 1,000 hours of their time to this, and we're certainly not going to see that all go for naught."

--Drew Lindsay

Vol. 14, Issue 37

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