PROFILE OF A SCHOOL-REFORM DESIGN COMPETITION

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) announced its nationwide competition to redesign American schools last year. By the February deadline, the nonprofit corporation received 686 proposals from every state except South Dakota.

Selecting the 11 winning designs "took a lot of work," says Saul Cooperman, chairman of the NASDC education advisory panel.

The five-month evaluation process involved hundreds of people. NASDC recruited 180 readers with expertise in education, business, technology, and community relations to serve on evaluation panels. These readers volunteered four days in March at one of three screening sessions held in Leesburg, Va., Denver, and Houston.

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They were asked to select the proposals that best met one overriding goal: "The likelihood that the design will enable all students to reach the national education goals and attain world-class standards."

Each site forwarded its top choices to NASDC headquarters in Arlington, Va. These proposals were then reviewed by NASDC staff, members of the education advisory panel, and the RAND Corporation.

At this level, all four criteria outlined in the request for proposals were considered. These include the likelihood of enabling all students to reach the national education goals, the quality of plans to assess the performance of the design, the potential for fostering widespread application, and the realism of the proposed costs.

NASDC conducted three-hour interviews with the 16 finalists in the competition, and the board made final decisions on grants.

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