Governors pledge education improvements

ST. LOUIS -- The National Governors' Association's annual meeting kicked off here this weekend with a presentation at a local school that underscored the theme of this year's conference: improving K-12 education.

At St. Louis's Gateway School, two students presented the "Monster Project," which uses computer technology to help improve students' writing and communications skills to meet state standards.

"One of the issues we will be talking about this week is our commitment to maintaining governors' ability to truly reform the way we prepare our children to face tomorrow's challenges," said NGA vice chairman Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt (R).

In demonstrating the project, which connects the school with one in Australia, governors and students followed directions on how to draw a monster, using specific colors and dimensions. If the students give appropriate directions, all the participants' drawings will look alike.

On Sunday, Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper (D), chairman of NGA, presided over the first session of the conference to discuss accountability in student achievement. The conference agenda calls for governors to focus on harnessing technology in the nation's schools to provide an "optimal" education and one that fits students' individual needs.

The governors also heard remarks from President Clinton and Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who shared their views on welfare reform, health care and what should be done with the nation's budget surplus. The president expressed his desire for governors to push the Children's Health Insurance Program, which helps 1.3 million children receive health care.

NGA's Committee on Economic Development and Commerce, chaired by New York Gov. George Pataki (R), met Sunday and addressed several technology-related issues, including electronic commerce, digital government and knowledge sharing.

The panel adopted a series of recommendations, including one to let market forces, rather than government regulations, guide the growth and development of the Internet. At the same time, the committee said it would encourage adoption of uniform state laws governing electronic transactions.

The committee also supported a heightened campaign to inform the public about digital access to all levels of government and the removal of any barriers to providing access.

The panel said it would launch a World Wide Web site -- together with the U.S. Commerce Department's Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee -- to provide information on federal trade programs and requirements, state and federal events, and trade assistance contracts.

The state/federal Web site would contain global trade information and encourage participation in trade missions and expositions at federal and state levels of government.

NGA's information technology task force meets today to discuss using geographic information systems as decision-making tools. On Tuesday, technology demonstrations by students and teachers will be followed by a panel discussion to address the future of education technology.

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