School Goals - Still Valid

Seven years ago, the United States set educational goals intended to drive school reform through the last decade of the 20th century. The year 2000 should see high school graduation rates across the country at 90 percent; every child entering school ready to learn; drugs and violence swept from campuses. Other goals: US superiority in science and math, partnerships with parents, professional development for teachers, universal literacy for adults, and demonstrated competency as students leave grades 4, 8, and 12.

Big goals, perhaps too big to be attained in the few years before the millennial change they've since been named after - Goals 2000. That conclusion could be drawn from the latest assessment by the National Education Goals Panel, which was set up to monitor progress.

The panel found some cause for optimism. Twenty states have attained a 90 percent graduation rate. Science and math scores have risen in some parts of the country (though a study released last week ranks Americans only average in these fields, compared with students worldwide). Many schools are safer, with students experiencing fewer threats and injuries.

But the overall picture, embracing all eight goals, is spotty at best. The panel's executive director, Ken Nelson, said a renewed push is needed, and it'll have to come primarily at the state and local level.

He's right, of course. School reform in the United States can be championed by a president or a secretary of education, but it has to be implemented by 50 states and thousands of school districts. Parents, teachers, and, yes, students, have to get involved in the process.

The goals set up in 1990 will remain valid beyond 2000. They should be seen as goals for the next century - continuing, organizing principles for reform.

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