One year after the Lawrence school board adopted a set of national education goals, the district has done little to try to achieve them, a local education specialist says.
But school board members say it will be difficult to focus on any new goals until one pressing need is met: the construction of new schools to relieve crowded classrooms.
It was Oct. 14 of last year that the school board decided to make Lawrence an America 2000 community. The America 2000 goals say that by the year 2000:
All children in America will start school ready to learn.
The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
American students will leave grades four, eight and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including English, math, science, history and geography.
U.S. students will be first in the world in math and science achievement.
Every adult in America will be literate.
Every school in America will be free of drugs and violence.
GENE RAMP, executive director of Educational Systems, an education research group at Kansas University, said that while he is pleased the board adopted the goals, he's disappointed the board never moved past square one.
Ramp said the America 2000 plan outlines a four-step process that communities should follow: adopting the national education goals, setting a community strategy for achieving them, developing a report card to measure results, and agreeing to create an innovative "New American School."
"I think we reached Point A early, and I'm still waiting for Point B," Ramp said. "Have we had any progress in measuring where are we now? We need a report card for Lawrence, Kansas."
Ramp commended the board for convening a community-based Exit Outcome Task Force. About 40 local educators, government officials and businesspeople worked on the task force and developed a set of local education goals. The goals eventually were approved by the board.
Ramp said he would have liked to see such a broad-based committee stay together to help the board meet the local goals, which he said dovetail somewhat with the America 2000 goals.
"IN SCHOOL district after school district that is really making progress on establishing goals and setting something in motion to achieve these goals, they are all keeping these groups together," Ramp said.
School Board Vice President John Tacha said other pressing issues have come to the fore.
"I wish we could do more for the 2000 goals, but I don't know when we would find time to do that right now," he said. "The district's space needs have really hurt us in many ways in terms of how we prioritize our efforts and energy."
The board is working to get a $29.9 million bond issue passed this fall to build two new elementary schools and a fourth junior high school.
School Board President Barbara Ballard agreed with Tacha that at this point, "It's just so crucial that we get classrooms."
Besides, she said, the district is taking steps to address its local goals through the curriculum.
SANDEE CROWTHER, the district's director of evaluation and outcomes, said a math committee and a language arts committee have been developing new subject-specific goals and tying them into the districtwide goals. Those committees also are charged with finding ways to measure the district's progress in achieving those goals.
Crowther said the district also has outlined how the local goals tie into the America 2000 goals.
Meanwhile, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's new Business-Education Task Force is developing ways to assist the school district. Ed Meyen, executive vice chancellor at KU and a co-chairman of the task force, said the group should be able to help in drawing attention to and achieving the local goals.
"I think the group will play a role. It's the outcomes that need life, not necessarily the task force that developed them," Meyen said. "It does help to have a community group talking about them and recasting them."
A "Satellite Town Meeting" on the America 2000 goals will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 44 of Sunflower Cablevision.