GOVERNORS SCRUTINIZE EDUCATION REFORMS

RICK KARLIN Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B8

Date: Saturday, October 2, 1999

PALISADES -- Governors at the third Education Summit on Thursday renewed their vow to improve education while recognizing that the next step in raising standards may be the need to enlist the public's support.


Following the first such national conference in 1989, most states have adopted standards that students must meet to graduate from high school. But this time, the gathering of governors, business leaders and education officials conceded there may be what IBM President Lou Gerstner, called ``pushback,'' when students and parents revolt against tough new requirements if they cannot be met. There was widespread agreement that better training must be provided for both teachers and the principals who supervise them. Administrators have been often overlooked in the reform movement.


``When somebody becomes a principal, they don't necessarily go to principal's school,'' said Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper.


The participants agreed that teachers should have to demonstrate knowledge of subject matter, which is as important as the pedagogy taught in college education courses. Some said the current certification process can be a barrier to getting the best people in the classroom. ``If you have content knowledge, you should be able to teach,'' said Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes.


Gov. George Pataki was not among the two dozen governors at the summit that concluded Friday.


State Education Commissioner Richard Mills, who attended the summit Thursday, noted that New York has adopted guidelines toughening the requirements for entering the teaching profession.


North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr. called for linking teacher pay to performance, such as by offering bonuses for additional training or success in the classroom.


Computer literacy is an area where teachers also need help.


``While there has been tremendous success over the past several years in bringing technology into the classroom, there is growing evidence that it is not being fully utilized,'' said U.S. Rep. William Goodling, R-Pa., chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Work Force. ``Much of this stems from the lack of assistance provided to teachers.''


President Clinton, in his remarks Thursday, repeated his call for 3,000 charter schools by next year (there are now fewer than 2,000).


But many participants downplayed the importance of these publicly funded, privately run, schools in education reform.


Acknowledging the divisiveness of the issue, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said early on that he didn't want the charter school debate to become a distraction.


The summit exposed the contradictions between calls for broad, essentially national standards and resistance to mandates from Washington, D.C.


With a consensus on the need for higher standards, the education system is now at a contentious point, said Chester Finn, a Reagan-era education official.


``It's taking painful actions to bring these standards to reality,'' Finn said.


Educators clearly played a larger role at this conference, compared to second summit in 1996 that was dominated by business leaders. While not representing a backlash against standards, many of these educators have stressed that putting standards in place is a lot easier said than done.


``I never want to talk about education without seeing a teacher,'' said Gerstner.