American education in miniature Clinton in Annapolis: His visit underscores Maryland's trail-blazing school reforms.

February 10, 1997

MARYLAND'S OLD motto, "America in Miniature," is due for an update following President Clinton's 10-point education plan set out in his State of the Union address and today's scheduled visit to Annapolis to expound on his vision. The Free State now represents "America's Education Policy in Miniature." Most points suggested by the president have been proposed or are in practice in Maryland.

Mr. Clinton spoke of national standards, similar to the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. Education Week, a trade publication, rates Maryland among the three best states for standards and assessments.

The president's focus on pre-school intervention, character education and college grants for students with a B-average or better mirrors proposals by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. The Clinton dream of expanding the "information highway" in classrooms dovetails with the on-going wiring of all 1,300 schools in Maryland to the Internet. Mr. Clinton also proposed more national certification for teachers and less "social promotion" of failing students; both are contained in bills up for consideration in Annapolis.

"We cannot expect our children to raise themselves up in schools that are literally falling down," added the president, suggesting $5 billion in construction aid. That's good for Maryland, which has spent more renovating and building schools in recent years than it has since the 1970s.

Maryland can be a model for Mr. Clinton; it also offers a "real world" window about the workings of some of his plans. For example, the assessment tests, while widely admired, still face concerns after six years that they have come to dominate the curriculum rather than simply measure it. With 50 schools in Baltimore City singled out for very poor performance, there's also the question about how to fix what's broken.

Similarly, the governor's college-tuition proposal has run into the same kind of legislative skepticism that met the president's own tuition plan from Republicans in Congress.

Arguments will continue to rage over which programs are worthy. But both the president and governor are relying heavily on education of our young as the key to finding long-term remedies to economic dislocation, substance abuse and social strife.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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