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Teachers Told To Get Tips by Looking To Businesses

Educators can learn a lot from studying the informal ways in which employees learn on the job, a report by the Center for Workforce Development says.

Researchers from the center, a nonprofit group affiliated with the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass., spent two years shadowing and interviewing employees at seven companies. The companies ranged from small firms such as Reflexite North America in New Britain, Conn., to large corporations such as Motorola Inc. in Schaumburg, Ill.

They found that 70 percent of the learning that occurs in the workplace comes about informally--through meetings, customer interactions, teaming, communication with co-workers, site visits, and other experiences. Moreover, the report adds, informal learning and more-formal or didactic learning experiences can build on each other.

"The Teaching Firm Field Research Report," ordering information from Gail Greenblatt, Center for Workforce Development, 55 Chapel St., Newton, MA 02158-1060; (617) 969-7100.

Rigor of Standards: States have set much more rigorous standards in mathematics than in English language arts, concludes a report issued last week by the Washington-based Council for Basic Education.

The council conducted the study for Quality Counts '98: The Urban Challenge, the second annual Education Week report card on public education in the 50 states, which was published Jan. 8.

The CBE study examined standards for 4th and 12th grade English language arts in 42 states, and for 8th and 12th grade math in 43 states.

It evaluated math standards using guidelines set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the levels of performance specified by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In English language arts, it relied on its own "Standards for Excellence in Education."

Because there was no recognized model for the states to use as a guide, the study says, it is not surprising that many developed less rigorous standards for English than for math.

"Great Expectations? Defining and Assessing Rigor in State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts," $8, from the CBE, 1319 F St. N.W., Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004-1152; (202) 347-4171; e-mail: [email protected].

Community Involvement: Current education reforms promising a high-quality education for every child are threatened by a lack of support and involvement by families and communities, says a report issued by more than 40 grassroots organizations.

The report was published last month by the Center for Law and Education, a Washington-based advocacy organization. It summarizes findings from a February conference that examined what participants said was the slow pace of reform and how low-income parents and community members can become partners in improving schools.

The report includes profiles of successful efforts to connect schools and families.

"Urgent Message: Families Crucial to School Reform," $14.95, plus $5 postage and handling, from the Center for Law and Education, 1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 510, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 986-3000; fax: (202) 986-6648.

Expert Educators: Some 34 states use or plan on using distinguished educators as expert advisers to troubled schools, according to a report by the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers.

These educators, outstanding teachers whose primary role is to provide assistance to schools having trouble meeting their states' academic standards, can enhance the effectiveness of states' school support systems, the report says.

The report summarizes Section 1117 of the Title I law, which requires that states provide statewide systems of support for schools struggling to raise academic achievement. It also contains profiles detailing how states implement their support systems.

"A Status Report on Implementation of Statewide Systems of School Support Under the Improving America's Schools Act," free, from the CCSSO's publications hot line at (202) 336-7016. The report can also be found on the World Wide Web site at

Chicago Reform: A study of the school-based councils that were set up under the 1988 Chicago school reform law concludes that most are carrying out their governance duties effectively, while 15 percent or fewer are seriously dysfunctional.

The 47-page study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that between 50 percent and 60 percent of the parent-dominated councils are "proactive agents for improvement." Another 10 percent to 15 percent are rated as deeply troubled, and the others fall somewhere in between.

The central duties of the local school councils are to hire and evaluate principals, approve school budgets, and monitor improvement plans. The study was based on surveys of nearly 2,000 council members in 1995 and 1996.

The authors say their findings belie the public perception that most LSCs are ineffective or corrupt. But they also say that the stronger oversight powers that the district's central administration gained as part of a 1995 law were "appropriate and necessary."

"Charting Reform: LSCs--Local Leadership at Work," $10, from the Consortium on Chicago School Research, 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637.

Youth Programs: Some programs serving young people--particularly at-risk or disadvantaged youths--do have an impact, says a report released by an organization that offers professional development for policymakers in the youth field.

The report released last month provides evaluation briefs of 49 youth programs that work. It finds, for example, that a well-run mentoring program available for a modest cost, such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, can delay alcohol and drug use and improve school performance.

Each of the featured programs incorporates six principles that researchers and youth workers have found essential for youth programs.

"Some Things Do Make a Difference for Youth: A Compendium of Evaluations of Youth Programs and Practices," $10, from the American Youth Policy Forum, 1001 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 719, Washington, DC 20036.

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