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MOSS SAYS LATEST STUDY ON SLIPPAGE IN REFORM MAY NOT APPLY TO UTAH

SHARE MOSS SAYS LATEST STUDY ON SLIPPAGE IN REFORM MAY NOT APPLY TO UTAH

A national study that suggests school reform has bogged down after an initial flurry of activity may not apply to Utah, said Dr. James R. Moss, state superintendent of public instruction.

The report, "The Progress of Reform: An Appraisal of State Education Initiatives," indicates that only modest gains have been made toward deep restructuring of schools, particularly the shifting of power and responsibility to a local level.Only a few states - such as Washington, Arkansas, Maine and Massachusetts - have programs to encourage local districts to find creative ways of improving classroom instruction, the study says.

Moss said Utah's Shift in Focus, a philosophical base for student-centered education, incorporates many of the approaches the national study addresses. The shift, however, is just beginning its implementation phase and will take time to have an impact on education in the state.

The study was produced by the Center for Policy Research in Education, a consortium of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, Michigan State University school of education, the Stanford University school of education, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Education Research.

It says that the 1983 Nation at Risk report initiated an outburst of activity, most of it aimed at setting graduation standards, raising the level of teacher professionalism, partly through higher pay and improving curriculum.

It suggests that future items on the reform agenda, such as more equitable distribution of school funds to poorer districts and giving teachers and parents more authority in school governance, will be dauntingly difficult. Utah's Shift in Focus includes both these factors. A comprehensive study of school financing is under way in the state and some districts are experimenting with site-based management.

Moss said Utah also went through some of the early reform steps, developing a state core curriculum and setting a higher graduation standard.

"We need to expect that progress won't be constant," he said, "that there will be times of forward movement followed by periods of regrouping and assessing. It's really unwise to have constant change."

The first flush of excitement engendered by the Nation at Risk report inevitably will be followed by long periods of "slogging through the process of making actual changes," Moss said.

William A. Firestone, associate professor of education at Rutgers University and co-author of the national report, agreed that people are going to have to be willing to make a long-haul effort to create the restructuring seen to be necessary to better education.

"High school curricula (now) are more academically oriented, standards for entering the teaching profession are more selective, teachers' salaries are higher and state and local governments have boosted educational funding," the report said.

But "there are still doubts about the rigor and challenge of some of the new courses."