Archive for Sunday, October 24, 1993

DISTRICT REACHES OUT TO ACHIEVE GOALS

October 24, 1993

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Two years after adopting the national education goals, the Lawrence school district is helping to coordinate a communitywide effort to achieve the goals.

When President Clinton entered the White House, some people thought the America 2000 education initiative would go out the door along with the Bushes' dog, Millie.

What some people don't realize is that Clinton headed the National Governors Assn. that adopted the America 2000 education goals in 1990. The name has been changed from America 2000 to Goals 2000, but the Clinton administration has kept the same goals.

The Lawrence school district, which adopted the six goals as its own in October 1991, also remains committed to achieving them.

School Board President John Tacha said there's a good reason the board adopted the goals nine years before the year 2000.

"We're a long way from what they're asking us to do. Those are very ambitious goals," Tahca said. "That doesn't mean we're not going to try to get to that."

Tacha said Quality Performance Accreditation, the state program that requires districts to focus on student outcomes, should help the district achieve the national goals.

"If we really do the things they're talking about in QPA, then the things that are being espoused in Goals 2000 will be accomplished," Tacha said.

Lawrence School Supt. Al Azinger agreed that more than just two years is needed to see how the district is progressing toward the national goals. For example, he said, the results of Parents as Teachers, a district program that reaches children before they even enter school, can't be seen immediately.

"We should see some advantages to that as kids move on up through the grades," Azinger said. "It probably shows up later in their schooling."

Azinger said developing indicators of how the district is progressing also is an ongoing process.

"We're in the process of trying to establish some things as benchmarks that will give us a standard by which to judge if we're progressing with our students at the rate and level that we would like to," Azinger said.

But the goals make up just one component of the education initiative. The Goals 2000 plan also expects communities to set a community strategy for achieving the goals, develop a report card to measure results, and agree to create an innovative "New American School."

Many people give the Lawrence school district high marks for recent efforts to involve the community in achieving the goals. Of special note is the new Lawrence School-Business Partnership.

"I think the Partnership is a very important step in moving our community and our school system toward achieving the national goals," said Gene Ramp, executive director of Educational Systems, an education research group at Kansas University. Ramp was the one who originally approached the board about adopting the goals.

Ramp noted that if you look at the Partnership's stated goals, "you have essentially a local mirror image of the national goals."

Among the Partnership's goals: All children will start school ready to learn; All students will graduate from high school; All students will attend schools in a safe and orderly environment.

The district this month hired Linda Robinson as director of the Partnership, which will help businesses help schools. The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is providing office space for Robinson and a 15-member board of directors.

Of course, local businesses already are working with local schools. Next week, Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa, will open a Parent Information Center to help parents of children of all ages. District employees will help coordinate center activities.

Christina (Erland) Culver, a 1984 Lawrence High School graduate who helped the U.S. Department of Education implement America 2000, said that's just the kind of cooperation the plan calls for.

"The kind of thing that Wal-Mart is doing is the kind of thing that every business in every community should be doing," Culver said. "It's going to take a lot of thinking on the part of community members to provide students the opportunities they need."

Jeanette Wisdom, founder of the local group Parents Involved, said she has been impressed with other efforts to involve the community. She cited the district's Curriculum Advisory Council and the district's active participation in the new Parent and Public Involvement Committee.

Wisdom said she's especially impressed with the Site-Based Councils at each school. The state-mandated councils involve parents and other community members with school improvement efforts.

Wisdom said parent involvement ties into all the national goals.

"If parents are involved, the kids do better in school," Wisdom said. "The district really has worked on the parental input in many areas. I think they've done a good job of that."

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