Schools in Eight States Chosen to Test Changes
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Governors and educators from eight states joined Education Secretary William J. Bennett on Thursday in naming 16 school districts to serve as laboratories for deregulation and reform.
The districts will attempt to carry out some of the far-reaching changes endorsed last August by the National Governors Association in a report, ″Time for Results.″
Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander said the 16 ″will become the best-watched schools and school districts in America for the next two to three years.″
Bennett said the districts ″will become informal laboratories of education reform and the results of this experiment will have tremendous potential for all the nation’s schools.″
They were joined at a news conference by Govs. Thomas Kean of New Jersey, Bill Clinton of Arkansas and John Sununu of New Hampshire, and representatives of the four other participating states, Colorado, Missouri, South Carolina and Utah, as well as superintendents and principals from the 16 districts.
Alexander spearheaded the governors’ report, and the seven other governors headed task forces that drew up the recommendations. They include giving parents more choice over what school their child attends, operating schools year-round, finding ways to evaluate principals and giving teachers more status and accountability.
The governors’ report also called for assessing what students learn in college, and it suggested that states take over ″bankrupt″ school districts with a long record of failure. It also endorsed efforts to expand pre-school programs for disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds.
Alexander repeated the offer he first made last August when he released the report: ″We’re ready for some old-fashioned horse trading. We’ll regulate less if schools and school districts will produce better results.″
Bennett said he had urged the governors at their summer meeting at Hilton Head, S.C., ″to stay in charge of this enterprise, to keep the heat on and not to brook any nonsense. I’m pleased to say that this is exactly what many of them are doing.″
Bennett said his department will try to held the districts cut through federal red tape. It will also monitor their progress and report the results to schools across the country.
Taking Bennett at his word, Paramus, N.J., Superintendent Harry Galinsky asked for more flexibility in the federal rules to teach his polyglot school population in intensive English classes instead of bilingual instruction.
Memphis City Superintendent Willie W. Herenton said he wants his state to give him more flexibility over what textbooks to use for his majority black, urban system, and leeway to offer more developmental reading classes in junior high.
Jim Delap, principal of Springdale High School in Arkansas, said his nemesis was state certification laws that prevent him from shifting teachers around to teach children instead of specific subjects.
″The bottom line we all share is student achievement,″ said Edgar R. Melanson, superintendent of White Mountains Regional School District in New Hampshire. He said he is trying to involve teachers in redesigning the curriculum.
New Jersey’s Kean said the districts chosen were ″representative of the nation″ and also ones with strong leadership that have already been in the forefront of reform.
″We’re ready to cut down on regulations,″ Kean said, ″but only with the idea that we’re going to see professional standards and local commitment in their place.″
New Hampshire’s Sununu said, ″Congress and governors and state legislatures may pontificate, but it is that teacher in that classroom, with those students, where all the action will take place ... and all the results will be achieved.″
The districts or participating schools are:
Arkansas - Springdale High School in the Springdale School District and Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock.
Colorado - Mapleton School District, Denver, and Montrose School District.
Missouri - Independence School District and Columbia School District.
New Hampshire - White Mountains Regional School District, Whitefield, and Timberlane Regional School District.
New Jersey - Paramus Public Schools and the Township of Union Public Schools.
South Carolina - Orangeburg School District No. 5 and Spartanburg School District No. 7.
Tennessee - Memphis City Schools and Oak Ridge Schools.
Utah - Salt Lake City School District and Provo School District.
Each school district will put into practice at least three of the 13 major recommendations in the governors’ report.
There was no immediate word on what specific reforms each district will undertake, and Education Department officials said the project will still be in the planning stage for the next six months. The experiment will run at least through 1988.
American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker, who attended the news conference, was noncommital and cautious. ″All we know about this so far is the generalities,″ he said.