1996 NATIONAL EDUCATION SUMMIT: NATION'S GOVERNORS AND BUSINESS EXECUTIVES CALL FOR A REFOCUS OF ATTENTION ON EDUCATION
Governors from across the nation called Tuesday for state and community-based K-12 academic standards as the first step toward building an American workforce that is the best in the world.
The governors were joined by high-level business executives in declaring that American students must perform better in basic reading, math, and communications -- and will perform better if communities step up to the challenge of creating clearly defined standards and effective ways to measure progress.
"Standards drive excellence," said Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, chairman of the National Governors' Association (NGA) and the Education Commission of the States. Gov. Thompson is cohosting the 1996 National Education Summit with IBM Chairman and CEO Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., and Nevada Gov. Bob Miller, vice chairman of NGA.
"We're here to refocus America's attention on education. We're talking about something that's very ambitious -- setting high standards, telling our kids they have to do better because we know they can do better," he said.
The two-day conference is being attended by more than 40 governors, joined by business leaders representing 49 of America's major corporations and largest employers.
President Bill Clinton is scheduled to address the Summit on Wednesday.
Nevada's Gov. Miller said the involvement of the private sector with elected officials indicates this Summit will deliver meaningful results. "It's a strong message to the country that governors and corporate leaders want to work together to improve our schools," he said. "Our kids are joining a global economy, and who better to help us prepare than America's corporate leaders."
Gov. Thompson stressed that the creation of any set of standards is a local -- not federal -- issue, a position that was echoed by several of his peers. He said the actual process of establishing academic standards will work only if it involves parents, local school boards, employers, and members of the community working together.
Once standards are in place, he said, they must be supported by an independent method of measuring student performance -- district by district and state by state. Without objective measurements, the United States will continue to languish behind other nations in terms of academic performance.
"Imagine the reaction if our Olympic athletes were able to finish no better than 13th or 14th this summer in Atlanta," Thompson said. "That's about where we are in education. Our Olympic athletes have standards by which to measure their success. Many of our schools don't have standards."
Colorado Gov. Roy Romer said the experience of developing standards and assessments in his state proves it can be a powerful way to improve instruction and increase academic achievement "when we do it right."
"This isn't only about standards and assessments for the sake of making more measurements," he said. "This is about training, helping, and giving kids a clear target and a learning experience that helps them reach that target."
Business leaders attending the Summit expressed strong concern about the level of achievement in students entering the U.S. work force. Unless those students possess baseline abilities in areas like math, science, and language arts, they are poor candidates to be trained for specific jobs in large or small businesses.
"The bottom line is that unless we improve the skills of our young people, it will become increasingly difficult to remain competitive in a global marketplace," said Robert E. Allen, chairman and CEO of AT&T.
"If we do not raise standards and expectations, then we must accept whatever comes out of the system, and right now we're seeing a continued decline in the achievement of U.S. kids versus kids overseas," said Frank Shrontz, chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company.
In his keynote address, IBM's Gerstner called setting high standards for our children "the starting point for change" and pointed to "overwhelming support for standards from virtually every demographic segment of American society."
For example, a recent survey by "US News and World Report" said:
* 75 percent of all Americans believe standards for basic school
subjects are too low; and
* nine of 10 Americans believe students should not be allowed to
graduate from high school if they cannot pass academic exams.
The public now ranks education as its top concern, ahead of crime, drugs, and taxes, according to a recent Gallup poll commissioned by CNN and "USA Today."
Gerstner emphasized that it was not the intention of the private sector participants to turn public schools into vocational institutions. "We're here to help the governors in their process of creating change," Gerstner said. "We'll teach people the vocational skills. What's killing us is teaching them to read, to communicate, and to think."
Gerstner and Thompson decided to call the meeting last year, following Gerstner's address to NGA's 1995 annual meeting.
The Summit is designed to address two main issues:
* how to develop, implement, and measure high academic standards
for U.S. K-12 public schools, and how to hold students, teachers,
and school systems accountable to those standards; and
* how to infuse the U.S. public education system with new
technologies as tools for improved teaching, learning, and
Attending governors were invited to bring one key business leader. The Summit is also being attended by educators, parents, legislators, and school superintendents.
It is being held at the Palisades Executive Conference Center, home of IBM's Advanced Business Institute, the company's leading executive education center.
/CONTACT: Sherry Conway Appel at Education Summit Press Headquarters, March 27-28, 914-732-6156/
CO: National Education Summit; National Governors' Association; IBM ST: New York IN: SU:
JF -- SETU015 -- 2339 03/26/96 22:04 EST