CEOs, Educators UniteWith a Strong PromiseTo Promote Technology

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Fifteen business and education leaders met in Washington last week and pledged to work together to bring technology to the nation's schools and classrooms.

The new CEO Forum on Education and Technology plans to produce an annual report card to monitor progress in four areas: connections to the Internet, availability and accessibility of hardware, the adequacy of professional development and teacher training, and appropriateness of educational software.

Those areas match the national technology goals propounded last summer by the U.S. Department of Education.

The group will not conduct original research but will pool data from many sources while evaluating its reliability, said Anne L. Bryant, the executive director of the National School Boards Association. The members elected Ms. Bryant and Don Cameron, the executive director of the National Education Association, to be co-chairs of the group.

The group plans to release its first report in October, followed by three more reports in later years. The reports will try to create a baseline to measure schools' progress.

For example, the reports will marshal data to determine what teachers are using technology for and whether industry is providing necessary tools to have students advance, said Tony Coelho, the chairman and chief executive officer of ETC w/tci, a Washington-based educational training and communications company.

Effectiveness, Equity

Seeking donations and holding volunteer events to wire schools are important, said Mr. Coelho, a former U.S. representative from California, "but you have to question whether you are making a difference and whether or not progress is being made."

He said the group's chief concerns are the effectiveness of technology and equity of access to it. Good information would help focus public attention on the problems and mobilize political forces and money to bring about their effective resolution, he added.

Ms. Bryant promised that the new forum would be more than "sound-bite heaven." To pay expenses, each member has agreed to contribute $20,000 a year for four years, Ms. Bryant said.

Members will also contribute their own expertise, knowledge, and publicity apparatus, Mr. Coelho noted. Those assets could be considerable. Two of the forum's members are the top executives of Discovery Communications Inc. and the Learning Channel, which reach television sets in half the nation's homes.

Other members include the chief executive officers of the Bell Atlantic Corp., the Compaq Computer Corp., and the Public Broadcasting Service.

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