Delaware governor unveils school reform plan


Gov. Michael N. Castle unveiled Delaware 2000 last week -- document designed to produce sweeping changes in the way children are taught in that state's public schools.

The reforms range from ridding schools of drugs and violence to making Delaware students first in the world in science and math to increasing the high school graduation rate to 90 percent -- all by the year 2000.

The Delaware plans mirror President Bush's strategy to achieve national education goals in what is being billed as America 2000.

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Lamar Alexander was scheduled to meet with officials in Delaware to discuss the state's plan.

"We have done well in Delaware, but we must do better. . . . Working together, Delaware can and will lead the nation" in education reform, Governor Castle said.

He said the changes needed in education must come from the classroom as well as communities, businesses, homes and churches.

"In preparing this action plan, I reached out for input from the community and found great energy and enthusiasm for shifting our focus from what we put into the system into what we are getting out of it," Governor Castle said.

Among the plan's goals:

* All children in Delaware will start school ready to learn. This would be achieved mainly by providing appropriate health and educational activities for pre-school children.

* At least 90 percent of all students who enter high school will graduate four years later. This goal would be reached using several strategies, including providing volunteer mentors and role models.

* Students leaving the fourth, eighth and 12th grades will be able to demonstrate competency in English, math, science, history and geography. The strategy includes developing a more rigorous curriculum.

* To make students first in the world in science and math, schools will be encouraged to develop critical thinking skills and apply math and science principles to students' life experiences.

* Every adult in the state will be literate and have the knowledge and skills needed to compete in a global economy. The state wants to implement a scholarship program to allow adults to continue their education part time.

* Delaware schools will be free of drugs and violence and offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning. The plan would continue support for the state Drug Abuse Coordinating Council and stress self discipline among students.

Paul R. Fine, president of Delaware's Board of Education, said the action plan "raises some interesting concepts and important objectives" that will be considered by the board and the Department of Public Instruction.

Charles E. Moses, superintendent of Delaware's Milford School District, said his district welcomed the challenge to "make decisions at the local level and to be held accountable for those decisions.

"This type of flexibility and the support suggested by many of the plan's initiatives will help strengthen the efforts already in place in many of our districts," Mr. Moses said.

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