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Governor Demands Changes in Summit

PALISADES, NY - Governor George Allen of Virginia put consensus on hold for a few tense hours at the March 26-27 National Education Summit while he persuaded Summit participants to make vital improvements to the final Policy Statement. His timely action prevented the Summit from being used as a platform to impose a top-down, federal approach to education.

As the chief executive of one of only four states to have rejected Goals 2000 funds, Gov. Allen was the primary defender at the meeting of state and local prerogatives in education policy. He prevented the immediate formation of a vaguely-defined national entity that would have served as a national authority on standards and assessments. This would have strongly resembled the controversial and now defunct National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC), created by the Goals 2000 Act to review state and national academic standards. How to create or endorse such a group will be postponed until the National Governors' Association conference in Puerto Rico this summer.

Governor Allen also successfully amended some of the education jargon that pervades the Policy Statement. For example, he persuaded the Summit participants to remove the wording "We remain committed to National Goals." Additional phrases were changed as follows: "world class standards" to "internationally competitive standards"; "collaboration" to "cooperation"; "student performance" to "student achievement" and "student proficiency"; "common goals" to "understandable, objective and measurable goals"; and "perform in the workplace" to "compete successfully in the workplace."

Governor Allen also changed a controversial statement promising "equalizing access" to instructional materials and methods to read "substantially improving access." He said the original phrase invited lawsuits.

IBM CEO Louis Gerstner and the other CEOs in attendance were so upset about these last-minute changes that they walked out of the Summit planning committee meeting the night before the scheduled March 27 adoption of the statement. However, all 40 governors and 49 corporate chief executives in attendance unanimously adopted the final statement.

The governors agreed on a two-year timetable to establish internationally competitive standards and assessments and to develop a way to measure progress toward meeting them. The business leaders committed to incorporate job applicants' school-based records in their hiring decisions within the next year.

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