Goals 2000 Act Broadens Federal Role Legislation Is the Result of a Five-Year Effort to Define a National Consensus on Education

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PRESIDENT Clinton interrupted his recent vacation in California to sign the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. In so doing, he completed something he helped start five years ago when he was still governor of Arkansas.

In 1989, President George Bush gathered the nation's 50 governors for an education summit in Charlottesville, Va. Under the leadership of Bill Clinton, who was head of the National Governors Association at the time, the politicians outlined first-ever national education goals for the year 2000.

Despite the change in presidential administrations, the original impetus for this legislation has remained intact, says Chris Pipho, director of state relations for the Education Commission of the States in Denver.

Bush's "Education 2000" became "Goals 2000" under Clinton, but the effort to make the goals into law continued. "What we've seen is that education has stepped above politics a bit," Mr. Pipho says.

Clinton's Goals 2000 legislation does more than simply bring Congress on board with the education goals, however. It is a broad initiative to increase federal guidelines for public education and move the federal government beyond its traditional role of helping educate poor and disabled students and protect civil rights in schools.

This is the most sweeping education legislation to pass Congress in decades, Pipho says. "For the most part, what we've done with education-related legislation in the last decade or so is to add on to the original programs," he says.

In recent years, however, economic competition from abroad has prompted both educators and politicians to push for a national effort to improve American schools.

Goals 2000 codifies the governors' six original education goals and adds two more: improved teacher training and increased parental involvement (see complete list, below left). The goals have been in place for four years already.

Yet the prospects for success in the year 2000 are mixed. Educators generally agree that American students have little hope of being first in the world in mathematics and science in just six years, for example.

But the legislation also authorizes nationwide academic standards for what students should know by the time they reach grades 4, 8, and 12.

"What this bill does for the first time in the entire history of the United States of America is to set world-class education standards for what every child in every American school should know in order to win when he or she becomes an adult," Clinton said just before signing the bill at a San Diego elementary school.

At least 45 states are planning, developing, or implementing new curriculum standards on their own, according to Policy Studies Associates in Washington.

The only subject with completed national standards is math. …