It's like thinking you might be pregnant. Not only don't you know what the baby will look like, you don't even know for sure if it has been conceived.
That's how Chester Finn, director of the Education Excellence Network, sums up what has happened in the year since President Bush called the nation's governors to Charlottesville, Va., for his education summit.Bush administration officials and some education experts wax eloquently about what has been accomplished. They talk about creating for the first time in 200 years nationally recognized education goals. They talk about seeking ways to implement those goals and to measure the results.
But try to grasp any tangible accomplishments that 12 months later can be attributed to the education summit, and one comes up nearly empty-handed. The results have been mostly panels, commissions, reports and speeches.
Smarter children may still be years away.
Here's what has happened this year.
After two days of meetings in Charlottesville, the president and governors made four commitments: They said they would set national education goals by February and seek greater flexibility for the states to use federal education money, and the governors would commit themselves to restructuring their state education systems and develop ways to measure student performance to determine if reforms were working.
Education had always been the province of individual state and local governments; never before had national goals been set. But at their winter meeting the governors approved six national education goals that Bush announced in his State of the Union Address.
They promised that by 2000 every child would be ready with the preschool training and nutrition to start kindergarten ready to learn. They said the high school graduation rate - now at about 75 percent - would be boosted to 90 percent.
They pledged that by the end of the decade U.S. students would be first in the world in math and science, and they would develop the tests to prove it. They promised that every American adult would be literate, and every school would have a disciplined, drug-free environment.
This month an additional 200,000 three- and four-year-olds attended public pre-school, a 20 percent increase over 1989. Some education experts attribute that to the Charlottesville summit. The 1991 congressional appropriation for Head Start jumped by $500 million, and Porter said the administration is committed to keeping that increase during budget negotiations.
A pilot program to allow 50 school districts greater flexibility in using federal money has a good chance of being approved before the 101st Congress adjourns next month.
But across the nation, state and local officials are finding reform often more difficult and controversial than they expected.
In a number of states, governors have set education goals that build on the national ones, according to the National Governors Association, while others are designing ways to give principals, teachers and parents more autonomy. Some states are changing teacher certification rules to attract higher qualified people to the profession.
But nothing comes easy.
Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, for example, is a champion among the nation's governors for education reform. But he couldn't convince the state Legislature to approve his plan because it required higher taxes. And when he sought re-election, he couldn't win the endorsement of the state teachers union because it opposed his proposal for teacher competency testing.
With the economy slowing, state and federal treasuries are being squeezed. The nation is on the brink of war with Iraq. Bush hasn't talked about education in a long time.
Schools remain a top national priority. But the education reform movement is seven years old, and bad news still outweighs good. The trick may be to keep the issue alive long enough for Chester Finn's baby to be born.