An overview of eight states where reforms are becoming realities

When school doors swing open next month, reforms will be in place in all 50 states. The Education Commission of the States' ''Task Force on Education for Economic Growth'' cited eight states as exemplary in educational reform. A summary of reforms in these states shows the extent to which school reform has passed from political discussion to school policy.

* Florida has passed what the task force calls ''the stiffest high school graduation requirements in the nation.'' Twenty-four credits will be needed for graduation. The new requirements go into effect in the 1986-87 school year and include 4 credits in English, 3 in mathematics, and 3 in science. For admission to state universities, students will have to add two foreign language credits. Public schools, not postsecondary institutions, will bear responsibility for remediation.

* North Carolina added $300 million to its budget for teachers' salary raises. It set a maximum limit of 26 pupils per teacher in K-6 and a competency-based curriculum with a testing program to measure performance at Grades 3, 6, and 9. Social promotions - passing a student solely on attendance rather than academic achievement - were eliminated and free summer school for students seeking remedial instruction is offered.

* Colorado, in its Employability Skills Project, aims at providing all high school graduates with entry-level job skills. A ''student employment portfolio'' will be maintained by each school for each ninth- grader until graduation.

* Arkansas increased its sales and property taxes to bring teachers' salaries in line with regional averages. The new funds will also be used to limit Grades 1 through 3 to no more than 25 students per class and 28 students per class in Grades 4 through 6. More courses in traditional academic subjects will be offered at the high school level. The compulsory attendance age was raised from 15 to 17. Mandated minimum competency tests were instituted for all teachers, new and old.

* Tennessee's comprehensive reform act established the nation's most comprehensive merit pay plan. It put in place a five-step career ladder with annual salary incentives from $500 to $7,000.

A 1-cent sales tax hike and an amusement tax will fund the Tennessee program. Gov. Lamar Alexander (R) reports that the career ladder has already attracted 14 ,000 of the state's present teachers, with the deadline for joining set for Oct. 15. All new teachers must participate in the career ladder plan.

* Ohio initiated tougher minimum standards, with 1987 graduates required to complete 18 semester units. Local schools must establish clear instructional goals, and students must be tested as to whether they are competent in these goals at least once in Grades 1 to 4, at least once in Grades 1 to 5, and at least once in Grades 9 to 11. Each school building will be evaluated for compliance with higher standards every five years and parents must be informed of the results.

* Massachusetts began a program to pay for 10,000 teachers and administrators to improve their professional skills.

* California developed a program to prepare minority students for math, science, and high-tech careers. The program seeks to increase the number of minority students who major in math, engineering, and the physical sciences in college.

Some common efforts can be deduced from these plans: improvement of the teaching profession with increased salaries, merit pay, career ladder plans, and tougher certification requirements; strengthening of graduation standards; upgrading curricula and textbook revision; increased business partnerships with schools; support of efforts to finance educational excellence.

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