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Governor Favors Statewide Standard for Student Skills

December 20, 1987|LEO C. WOLINSKY | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Saturday said he favors establishing a statewide list of skills that all students must learn before graduating from public schools.

Deukmejian also said it "makes sense" to require all students to take standard tests so their progress in learning these skills can be measured throughout their school years.

The governor's remarks in his weekly radio address embraced some of the major recommendations of a commission he appointed last summer to look into how well public schools are being administered.

Preliminary Findings

The commission's preliminary findings, released Friday, found no evidence of widespread mismanagement but identified several ways in which "high performance schools" are able to provide better education without spending more money.

That is key to Deukmejian's claim that schools can do much more with the money they already have. The governor has been attempting to deflect criticism that his budgets have been too stingy to public schools. Much of the criticism has come from Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig, who insists that school districts cannot even keep up with inflation.

Peter Mehas, Deukmejian's education adviser, has already cautioned that the commission's findings will have little impact on the governor's fiscal 1988-89 budget, which will be submitted to the Legislature next month. The commission will not address the key issue of school financing until it issues its final report in June.

In his radio address, Deukmejian said he is "very pleased" with the commission's initial report. But the governor gave his immediate support only to the recommendations for more rigorous graduation requirements and for modifying the state's existing program for testing students.

Currently, the state Department of Education publishes curriculum guidelines but generally leaves individual districts free to set their own skill-level standards. The commission found that the state's most successful schools have set very specific standards.

"Learning goals are not mandated by law. The commission recommends that mandatory learning skills be established for all students. And I agree," Deukmejian noted.

Skills Not Indicated

Neither the commission nor the governor, however, indicated what those skills should be. The commission said the details should be left up to the state Board of Education.

Honig, in an interview Saturday, said he agreed that there needs to be "statewide accountability" for what children are taught. But he said until now the decisions have been left up to elected school boards and have been considered a matter of local control.

"We have to draw a fine line between a general statement of competency and what students should do and the ability of local districts to organize the program," Honig said. "I'm a little more on the local control side."

But Honig said he fully supports the concept of standardized statewide tests to determine how individual students are doing.

"I hope we can get some funds for that," he added.

Although many individual districts have established proficiency tests for their students, the state's standardized testing program is geared to determining how schools, not individuals, are doing.

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