The Goals 2000 movement made its public debut 10 years ago when President Bush and the nation’s Governors met at a National Education Summit and agreed on national goals for schools. The gathering occurred amid a burst of bipartisan optimism that desperately needed improvements in public education would ensue.
Congress codified eight Goals and in 1994 passed the Clinton Administration’s proposed Goals 2000: Educate America Act.
The Year 2000 has almost arrived, but Goals 2000 has made slight impact on school achievement. Yet President Clinton proposes to spend another half-billion on Goals 2000 in Fiscal 2000, which means that in January, 2001, Americans will be looking at their National Goals retrospectively. The Administration does propose to rename them “America’s Education Goals,” but semantics is no substitute for substance.
The 1998 report of the National Education Goals Panel noted that reading proficiency among high-school seniors had actually declined during the Goals 2000 decade.
That’s a sad commentary.
Overall, the NEGP said, the nation’s report card was a mixed bag — improvements offset by declines.
A General Accounting Office study late in 1998 noted that many school districts used Goals 2000 simply to fund reform efforts that they had already launched without Washington’s help. The GAO said it did not attempt to assess the effectiveness of funded programs.
Goals 2000 ought to end in 1999. There are more promising ways for the federal government to encourage needed reform of public schools — for example, by assisting in the formation of charter schools, which promise results in exchange for freedom from stultifying regulations.
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