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`Breaking the Mold' of Education

Eleven design teams gear up to reinvent US schools for the next generation of children

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AS part of his America 2000 education agenda, President Bush put out a clarion call for a new generation of "break-the-mold" schools.

At the president's request, business leaders created the New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) last year and launched a nationwide design competition to attract ideas for reforming American schools.

"You are going to see massive changes in American schools," promises Tom Kean, NASDC chairman and president of Drew University in Madison, N.J. "We are aiming for nothing less than a fundamental and dramatic change in education."

Donations to the nonprofit corporation fell far short of the $200 million goal. But there was no shortage of ideas for reinventing American schools.

Nearly 700 design teams entered the competition for NASDC grants. Eleven of these teams won funding for their projects. The "New American Schools" they develop are expected to serve as models for change in American public education.

"Of all the aspects of America 2000, this is probably the most useful," says Frank Newman, president of the Education Commission of the States in Denver. "We already have about a dozen major national networks of school reform. This will certainly add to it."

Others are less impressed with the initiative.

"I see it as window dressing," says Michael Slater, associate director of the Educational Leadership Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "It's not a systemic kind of a change. I don't think it will change the basic structure of education."

The 11 winning teams will implement their ideas in public schools in 20 states.

Some teams include well-known school reformers whose concepts have already proved successful, others involve newcomers with untested ideas.

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