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National Governors' Association Creates Nameless 'Entity'

PUERTO RICO - The National Governors' Association (NGA) formally established a nongovernmental "entity" reminiscent of the original National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC) created by the Goals 2000 Act to review state and national standards.

According to the NGA Policy Statement, the planning committee of six business leaders and six governors deemed the creation of a new organization necessary because "no existing organization is currently able to undertake all of the agreed upon activities committed to at the 1996 National Education Summit."

The privately-funded, nongovernmental agency, to be governed by the 12-member planning committee, is intended to help states and local school districts in the areas of standards, assessments, and accountability. This entity, the policy statement says, "is to be a nonpartisan, unbiased, and objective resource" which "will not endorse, develop, or financially support the development of national education standards."

NGA president, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, pushed for the adoption, while Virginia Governor George Allen discouraged it. According to Thompson, the organization is a resource "governors could voluntarily use as a clearinghouse" that would also "provide technical assistance in how to use assessments to improve student performance."

Governor Allen is leery of the group. Although he successfully prevented its formation at the National Education Summit in March, it was adopted by the NGA executive committee and business leaders in May. Allen distrusts the agency because of its potential to usurp states' rights and create national standards and tests.

Allen is not alone in his skepticism. Member of the Ohio Board of Education, Judi Hahn of Cincinnati, is wary of the group. "If governors are doing it, how nongovernmental will it be?" she asked.

"I don't see a need for any national entity," said Cheri Piersen Yecke of the Virginia Board of Education. "Virginia is already sharing with other states. We don't need to establish a new entity to get this sharing to occur."

Christopher Cross, president of the Council for Basic Education (CBE) and the Maryland State Board of Education, says the entity could slow down the assistance process to states. "CBE recently reviewed the draft standards for the state of Illinois," he said. "Is there any value added if they have to go to a third party if they want us?"

"What I'm not sure is compelling is for the entity to be the center of the universe on issues around providing technical assistance, benchmarking, and a clearinghouse," continued Mr. Cross.

Organizers of the entity plan to seek $2 million in foundation funding, hire a small staff, and contract out a majority of its work.

The NGA policy statement lists the following functions of the new entity:

  1. Leadership. The governing board would influence public opinion in support of high academic standards

  2. National Clearinghouse. The entity will support the work of the states via a clearinghouse to collect and disseminate information and research regarding standards, assessments, accountability systems, and the use of technology in schools.

  3. Benchmarking. The entity will provide financial support for the development of a voluntary process that states can use to assess the quality of their current standards and assessments and relate them to standards and assessments in other states and countries. It is not the responsibility of the entity to disseminate the results of any benchmarking analysis to the public. The entity would also encourage the development of a voluntary national, internationally benchmarked assessment.

  4. Technical Assistance. The entity will provide financial support to individuals and organizations that can respond to requests for technical assistance from states and school districts in the areas of standards, assessments, accountability, and technology.

  5. Annual Progress Report. The entity will provide financial support to an independent effort to objectively measure and report each state's annual progress in developing and implementing core academic standards and incorporating technology, and the progress made by businesses in the state to meet their commitments.

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