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June 9, 1995     Cape Gazette
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June 9, 1995
 

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12 - CAPE'G, Friday, June 9 - June 15, 1995 : ... Statewide debate on New Directions heats up With the Delaware General As- sembly soon to decide whether to provide continued financial sup- port to Delaware's educational re- form intitiative, New Directions, debate on the controversial plan is heating up. Proponents and oppo- nents of New Directions have stepped up lobbying efforts to make their positions clear to state legislators. The following show two perspectives on four of the commonly debated issues of the reform initiative. The following is a statement by Delaware Superintendent of Schools, Pascal For#one, Jr.: Standards unify goals Last week, I was discussing standards with a parent of a public school student, The parent told me she has lots of stan- dards in her home: week- day and weekend cur- fews, every- one cleans his or her place at the dinner table, people wipe their FORGIONE feet outside the front door, all homework must be finished by 9 p.m., and the last person to bed puts the dog outside. Standards, she said, (other fami- lies may call them "rules") let everybody know clearly what the requirements are, what's expected of them. For example, this parent told me her son's least favorite phrase is, "Adam, clean your room - to MY standards." It seems that Adam and Morn have different standards for "clean", and while they can both be con- sidered a standard, one is much more rigorous than the other (can you guess whose is the tougher one?) This situation is similar to edu- cation today. There are standards in our classrooms, and they vary according to the person setting them. Some teachers set higher standards than others. If a child is in a district, school or classroom that expects students to reach high standards, the student is well served. However, if the child is in a classroom where standards are lower, the child lags a step behind. A step here and a step there across 12 years of education can add up to a child who is at the back of the pack through no fault of his or her own. Until now, the education status quo has left many of Delaware's eager young students behind. But the times are indeed changing and this week the State Board of Edu- cation took a giant step toward the future. Plan is economical The work place is changing fast and employees must know more and be able to do more than ever. A quality education has always been the way to economic health, but today, its relative value is soaring. It'scommon knowledge that a larger proportion of jobs to- day require higher skill levels than ever before. Yet, large numbers of today's students are leaving school - be- fore or after graduation - without the skills they need to succeed in life. The result is a widening gap between those with marketable skills and those without them. This is a trend that must be stopped. A good education obviously benefits our young people and their families. But, a quality edu- cational system must be important to all of us, for a well educated cit- izenry attracts new business and improves the general standard of living. It also helps us get along together as a society and reduces the cost of government over the long run. Consider that seven of l0 inmates in Delaware prisons lack a high school diploma and that some 60 percent of Delaware welfare mothers did not finish high school. So it's in our self-interest - whether or not we have children in school - to see that Delaware- ans are well educated. But how to proceed? First, we must create a safe and supportive learning envi- ronment. Discipline, order, deco- rum and freedom from drugs and violence are prerequisites for learning. Chronic troublemakers must be removed from the class- room and taught in an alternative setting where they do not interfere with those who want to learn. All reach potential Then we must assure that all Delaware children -high achiev- ers as well as lower achievers - reach their own full academic po- tential and are prepared to enter college or the work force in the 21st century. They must have the knowledge and skills which the times will require. Here in our state, the seeds of change are planted in New Direc- tions, through which we are defin- ing our expectations of the knowl- edge and skills the next century demands - expectations that we refer to as standards. Delaware's academic standards, which have the potential to be some of the best in the country, are home- grown, developed by Delaware educators, business people, and parents. They are challenging but achievable, based on where stu- dents will need to be, not where they are today. Those standards, in mathemat- ics, science, social studies, and English/language arts, were adopted this week by the State Board of Education. Tests prove competency We also must be able to mea- sure, in a fair and accurate way, whether students meet those stan- dards. We call that assessments. You may think of it as testing. Third, we must provide the best teaching, backed up by training, technology and other forms of support, so that the necessary learning can take place. While students will be expected to reach more challenging statewide academic standards, how that will be accomplished will not be mandated from Dover or anywhere else. The teaching methods, curriculum and class- room materials will remain the re- sponsibility of local districts and schools. As I meet with Delawareans, I'm sometimes told that people don't understand New Directions. We in the educational system probably have made it sound more complicated than it is. New Di- rections is simple. It's a lot like Adam's morn - that parent I re- ferred to earlier. Just as she does, New Directions sets out expecta- tions at a high level, it gives peo- ple the tools to be successful, and checks to make sure students are successful. If they're not, addi- tional steps will be taken. New Directions is simply education at its best - where it must be. How will we know if students are successful in attaining the standards? We'll check on it in just the same manner that Adam's morn checks his room. Does she sit him down and simply ask him to define a clean room? Does she ask him only to pick out charac- teristics of a clean room from a list? Or to memorize those char- acteristics and recite them? Cer- tainly he needs to have learned the concepts of putting things away, vacuuming, window cleaning, dusting, stripping the bed, etc. - the basics of the clean room. But Adam and his Morn don't just talk about it - he does it, using all of the basic knowledge he has learned. The she checks on how he did. That's exactly what we in education have called "perfor- mance-based assessment". It's a combination of knowing the ba- sics and putting them into action - performance. It's practical and it's common sense. New Directions is just that, a common sense approach that in- cludes knowing the basics, and more, and demonstrating the abili- ty to apply concepts to life's prob- lems. And the result? Well-edu- cated students who succeed in the workplace or in higher education, and who are productive members of society. That means a better fu- ture for all of us. After all, few things in this life are more important than launching our young people successfully. The following statement is by Patricia Adams, teacher: Tracking students impractical In order to receive federal fund- ing for educational reform, Delaware has aligned itself with President Clinton's Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Compli- ance has also resulted in Delaware designing "high stakes" standards in English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Joint Finance Committee seeks to reduce New Directions funding By Kerry Kester As the controversy with New Directions continues, Delaware's Joint Finance Committee has devised a budget proposal that may appease some of the education reform initiative's opposition. It has devised a final budget proposal to reduce New Directions funds by $940,000. On Monday, June 5, the Joint Finance Committee determined that the state should transfer funds from the New Directions budget to the school discipline budget. Of the $5.8 million total Gov. Tom Carper had slated for New Directions spending, over $2.8 million was slotted for statewide standards and assessment development, professional development, and curriculum. Of the $940,000 clipped from Carper's New Directions budget proposal, over $627,00 in adjustments will be made to the commu- nicationsdpublications/community outreach and the reading interim assessment budget divisions. Over $312,000 will come from the curriculum/professional development budget. $444,000 of the transferred funding to the school discipline bud- get will be used for Part 1/of the governor's comprehensive disci- pline plan. Those funds will increase the available grant money for school-based intervention programs. Presently, the Cape Henlopen School District is using its Part II grant for the extended day program at the high school. According to Bob Smith, director of secondary education, this year's grant was $60,000. With the increase in state discipline funds, "It could as much as double" the amount Cape will receive in grant renewal monies, said Smith. Cape will also benefit from the increase to Part III funds, which are designed for prevention plans. Smith said Cape won $100,000 for its Community Partnership Grant this school year. He said he anticipates next year's renewal to be approximately $150,000. Those funds, he said, will be used differently than they were this year when the local program was initiated. "Social workers in the elementary schools will tie up a good part of that grant," Smith said. He said he anticipates two-thirds of the money will be used for social worker salaries and expenses, and one-third will be used for after school programming. The Delaware General Assembly must vote on the final educa- tion budget prior to session adjournment on June 30. The philosophy and rationale statements in Delaware's pro- posed standards state that all stu- dents will be required to meet the- ses standards. Total disregard is given to the fact that all students are not equally endowed with the same ability and/or desire to learn. Delaware's Gap Analysis Re- port explains in Appendix A the monetary sanctions and rewards planned for schools and teachers based on student test scores. Gov- ernor Carper's Education Im- provement Commission (EIC) has just released its "Governance and Accountability Subcommittee Re- port and Recommendations", which also addresses sanctions and rewards for teachers and stu- dents based on test scores. Teacher accountability will be judged on the overall performance of professional practice as implied by the educational reforms. Stu- dent accountability will be linked to graduation, driver's licenses, attendance, discipline and extra curricular activities and sports. The 1992 "SCANS Report for America 2000", by the U. S. De- partment of Labor, requires trans- forming the practices of schooling and having the public at large agree on new objectives for learn- ing and new ways of teaching and studying. It also requires developing widely understood standards of performance as well as new as- sessments to measure their attain- ment. Students would be "tracked" through the grades via a record of portfolios, projects com- pleted, teacher evaluations, as- sessment results, and a summariz- ing rtsumt, which would result in obtaining their Certificate of Ini- tial Mastery (CIM). Schools would be obligated to provide education that enables students of any age to acquire the certificate. Employers and col- leges worldwide would recognize the CIM as evidence of the skills necessary to succeed in the work- place of tomorrow. Obviously this is what Delaware has in mind with state- ments about students having to stay in school until 21 or 22 years of age, if need be, to meet the new standards. The following statement is by Charles "Skip" Venable, retired Delaware State Police major: Similar reforms failed It would be informative for Delaware's taxpayers to learn the per pupil cost and students' aver- age scores on national standard- ized tests in reading, writing, and Continued on page 14