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Volume 12, Number 5
September/October 1996

Goals 2000

Pork or Progress?


Two years ago, Goals 2000 legislation enjoyed special status as the linchpin of the Clinton administration's education policy plan, the framework to which other legislation was added later—the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, especially Title I, and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act. Goals 2000 was meant to focus all efforts on higher student standards and better assessments. With that goal and few regulations, it appeared to be the perfect policy strategy.

In this election year, Goals 2000 is bruised, stripped, and maligned at every opportunity by conservatives, especially Republicans in Congress and some Republican governors, even though every change they wanted in the legislation has been made. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education has approved every state education plan with virtually no changes, at least until Virginia stretched the patience of DOE officials too far by wanting the money, but with no accountability. The legislative changes tossed out provisions that liberal Democrats had fought to include, such as opportunity-to-learn standards like adequate resources and qualified teachers. These finally were included, although "voluntary" appeared on almost every line in the legislation. Another now-excised provision established a national council that was to suggest criteria for standards and assessments, again on a voluntary basis (this is being resurrected by the National Governors' Association as a "non-federal" entity). Now, Goals 2000 even promises to refrain from what it could not have done anyway, such as require a school/state to adopt "outcomes-based education" or set up school-based health clinics. Its only broad mandate is requiring states to have plans for improving student achievement and creating new assessments.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Goals 2000: Increasing Student Achievement Through State and Local Initiatives. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Report to Congress, April 30, 1996.

Improving America's Schools: A Newsletter on Issues in School Reform
. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates, Spring 1996.

Setting Educational Standards: Experiences in Four States. Mary Houghton, for the National Governors Association, Washington, DC, 1996.

Making Standards Matter 1996: An Annual Fifty-State Report on Efforts to Raise Academic Standards. American Federation of Teachers, Washington, DC, 1996.

Standards and Education: A Roadmap for State Policymakers. Education Commission of the States, Denver, CO, 1996.