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Helping America Reach High Standards

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The Briefing Room


September 8, 1997

The struggle for excellence for all must be our great mission. We must demand high standards of every student; our schools and teachers must meet world-class standards. But we must demand that every child be given the opportunity to meet those standards. Every child must have a chance to succeed in this new economy.

President Clinton, Speech to the NAACP National Convention,
July 17, 1997

Today President Clinton will travel to Four Seasons Elementary School in Gambrills, MD to highlight the Administration's education agenda in an address to students, parents and teachers.A hallmark of President Clinton's efforts to improve American education has been that we should have high expectations for every student. He has urged states and school districts to adopt challenging academic standards in all core subjects, and to adopt high national standards in the basics of reading and mathematics. The President has strengthened existing federal programs and fought for new resources to improve local schools and help students reach these standards. President Clinton's Budget Agreement with Congress includes the largest increase in our investment in education in 30 years and the largest single boost in college aid since the G.I. Bill.

Strengthening Existing Programs.Expanding Head Start to Reach 1 Million Children a Year. President Clinton has made Head Start an Administration priority. For over 30 years, Head Start has helped low-income families create an environment where their children are ready to learn by taking a comprehensive approach to child development -improving children's learning skills, health, nutrition, and social competency. Under the Clinton Administration, funding for Head Start has increased 80% to $4 billion in 1997. These additional funds have enabled Head Start to serve 180,000 more children and their families. And President Clinton's Budget Agreement with Congress continues expansion of Head Start toward the President's goal of serving 1 million children in 2002.

Raising Standards for Over Ten Million Low Income Students. The Clinton Administration's Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 overhauled Title I, which provides extra help with basic and advanced skills to disadvantaged students in elementary and secondary schools. As a result of this Act, states now hold more than ten million low-income students to the same high standards set for all other students in the state, and hold schools accountable for the results. The new law also provides funds for teacher training, and strengthened requirements for parental involvement. Under the Clinton Administration, investment in Title I has grown by over $ 1 billion.

Making Schools Safe, Disciplined and Drug Free. The Clinton Administration passed the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and successfully fought Republican efforts to cut this program, which supports school security, drug prevention and education programs.

Bilingual and Immigrant Education. The President's budget includes major increases in bilingual and immigrant education. These increases are specifically protected in the balanced budget agreement.

New Initiatives Already Working to Strengthen Local SchoolsAmerica Reads. President Clinton launched the America Reads Challenge, a nationwide effort to mobilize a citizen army of a million volunteer tutors, to make sure every child can read independently by the end of third grade. The President's Balanced Budget provides for a child literacy initiative consistent with these goals.

Goals 2000. Goals 2000, President Clinton's education reform initiative enacted in 1994, helps States establish standards of excellence for all children, and plan and implement steps to raise achievement. Communities in every state are using Goals 2000 funds to upgrade curriculum, improve teaching, increase parental involvement in schools, and make greater use of computers in the classroom. Since Goals 2000 was enacted in 1994, over $1.3 billion has been invested in this vital initiative.

Strengthening the Skills of Classroom Teachers. Under the Clinton Administration, funding for the Eisenhower Professional Development has increased by over 25%, strengthening the ability of teachers to improve their teaching skills in math, science and other core subjects. In addition, the President has called for supporting the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to help certify 100,000 master teachers --at least one for every school --over the next ten years.

Expanding school choice and accountability in public education. The President has challenged every state to let parents choose the right public school for their children. The Clinton Administration is helping teachers, parents and community groups start charter schools --innovative public schools that stay open only as long as they produce results and meet the highest standards. The President's proposed budget doubles funding to $100 million help start charter schools so that there will be more than 3,000 charter schools at the dawn of the 21st century.

Expanding Access to Educational TechnologyBringing Computers to the Classroom. The President's 1997 Budget Agreement with Congress doubles the funding for America's Technology Literacy Challenge, catalyzing private-public sector partnerships to put the information age at our children's fingertips. The President is committed to helping communities and the private sector ensure that every student is equipped with the computer literacy skills needed for the 21st century. For 1998, the budget proposes $425 million, more than doubling the $200 million that Congress provided in

Linking Schools and Libraries to the Internet. The Clinton Administration is implementing a plan to create an "E-Rate," a discounted education rate for telecommunications services so schools and libraries will be able to bring technology into the classroom, set up phone lines and access the Internet at a fraction of the cost. The FCC has already approved a plan to make discounts worth $2.25 billion annually available to our schools and libraries, with low-income schools eligible for discounts of up to 90%.

Expanding School-To-Work. The Clinton Administration is providing hundreds of thousands of students with school-to-career opportunities, where they experience work-based learning and gain access to pathways from high school to good jobs and post-secondary education. In 1994 and 1995, over 500,000 young people in 1,800 schools throughout the nation, as well as 135,000 employers, participated in school-to-work systems that integrate academic and vocational instruction and provide work-based learning.

New Proposals to Improve Student LearningAttracting and Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers. President Clinton has proposed a 5-year initiative to attract nearly 35,000 talented people of all backgrounds into teaching at low-income urban and rural schools across the nation, and to dramatically improve the quality of training and preparation given to our future teachers. The President's initiative will help recruit and prepare teachers nationwide to help our neediest students succeed in the 21st century.

Create 1,000 after-school safe havens in communities across the country. The President's budget calls for extending learning opportunities for children and their families at schools across the country, keeping schools open late, on weekends, and in the summer so young people will stay off the streets and out of trouble.

School Construction. The Administration will continue its push to help address the serious need for renovating and building schools nationwide.

Widening Access to College and Lifelong LearningThe largest Pell Grant increase in 20 years. President Clinton has already increased Pell Grants from $2,300 in 1993 to $2,700 in 1997. These grants will provide a total of 3.8 million low-income students the opportunity to attend college this year. And he plans to do more. The President's Budget Agreement with Congress includes the largest increase in Pell Grants in two decades --a funding boost of 25%. The maximum award will reach $3,000, $700 more than in 1993. In the 1998 budget alone, an additional 348,000 students will receive grants: 130,000 young people from moderate income families, and 218,000 low income students over the age of 24.

Higher education tax cuts. The balanced budget agreement calls for roughly $35 billion in tax cuts to help families pay for college. Congress has enacted the President's $1,500 HOPE Scholarship tuition tax credit, to make the first two years of college universally available. Students beyond the first two years, or part-time students seeking to improve or acquire job skills, can now receive a 20% lifelong learning tax credit for up to $5,000 of tuition and required fees through 2002, and $10,000 thereafter.

Expanding Educational Opportunity Through Service. The Clinton Administration has enabled 70,000 volunteers to earn money for college by serving their communities and their country in the AmeriCorps program since the inception of the program.

Voluntary National Tests in Reading and Mathematics: A Strategy to Master the Basics and Reach High Standards

Tonight, I issue a challenge to the nation: Every state should adopt high national standards, and by 1999, every state should test every 4th grader in reading and every 8th grader in math to make sure these standards are met.

President Bill Clinton
1997 State of the Union Address

STRONG SCHOOLS WITH CLEAR STANDARDS OF ACHIEVEMENT AND DISCIPLINE ARE ESSENTIAL TO OUR CHILDREN AND SOCIETY. These standards are needed to help instill the skills and encouragement for hard work that our children need to succeed in school and in life. Toward that end we must establish meaningful standards for what students should be expected to learn and achieve in the basic subjects of reading and mathematics.

A CHALLENGE TO PARENTS, TEACHERS, AND SCHOOLS TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERY STUDENT MASTERS THE BASICS IN READING AND MATHEMATICS. Reading well by grade 4 and mastering mathematics --including the foundations of algebra and geometry --by grade 8 are the gateways for further learning and achievement. Research shows that students who fail to learn to read English well by the end of grade 3 are at greater risk of dropping out and facing diminished success in school and life. Students who fail to master the basics of mathematics by the end of grade 8 do not have the foundation to take tough mathematics and science courses in high school which in turn prepare them for college and better jobs.

While our students have been making progress in reading and mathematics, we are not yet where we need to be as a nation. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 40 percent of our 4th grade students do not reach the "basic" achievement level. In the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the U.S. 4th graders score above average in math and science. However, our 8th graders score below the international average in mathematics, and only 5 percent of U.S. eighth grade students score in the top 10 percent internationally.

RIGOROUS VOLUNTARY NATIONAL TESTS IN 4TH GRADE READING AND 8TH GRADE MATHEMATICS. Parents need to know that students have mastered the basics no matter where they live or move in this country. And they have the right to know how well their children are doing compared with students in other schools, states, and countries. To help give parents this information, the U.S. Department of Education is prepared to offer every state and school district the opportunity to use voluntary national tests of 4th grade reading and 8th grade mathematics, beginning in 1999. These rigorous tests will provide parents, for the first time, scores for individual students, measured against widely accepted national and international standards of excellence. They will give states, local communities, teachers and parents the kind of accurate information they need to help students master basic and advanced skills and strengthen academic performance.

TESTS BASED ON WIDELY RECOGNIZED NATIONAL STANDARDS. The tests will be modeled on the NAEP in 4th grade reading and 8th grade mathematics. The NAEP tests are based on widely accepted standards developed by parents, teachers, reading and mathematics specialists, curriculum specialists, and researchers. The NAEP standards reflect a national consensus of what students should know and be able to do when they reach these crucial stages of learning. The voluntary national tests will be linked to NAEP and, in the case of mathematics, linked to TIMSS, so that scores can be compared to national and international standards. The Department of Education has proposed that Congress authorize the bipartisan, independent National Assessment Governing Board to set policy for the national tests as it does for NAEP, insuring the integrity of the new tests.

A NATIONAL EFFORT TO IMPROVE THE ODDS FOR STUDENTS. Schools and communities are already working hard at educational improvement; they are committed to parent involvement, getting technology into the classroom, and ensuring a trained and dedicated teacher in every classroom. The federal government provides funding to states and communities to support these efforts. But these efforts cannot be fully effective unless parents, schools and communities are aiming at clear, high standards of achievement. That is why these national tests are already spurring a renewed nation-wide effort to support school improvement and strengthen student achievement in these core subjects. Reading and literacy groups are coming together to improve reading. The mathematics and science community, engineers and business leaders are working to improve mathematics teaching and learning. To assist parents, teachers, principals and communities in using the tests effectively, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and others are developing a tool chest that includes information for parents and teachers on how to prepare to meet these high standards, how to use test results to improve education, and what high standards in reading and mathematics look like. As part of this effort, every year the entire test (along with answers, scoring guides, and other materials) will be released to the public and available on the Internet so that students, parents, and teachers can know what is expected for students to reach standards of excellence.

TOOLS FOR PARENTS; GUIDES FOR SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES. The current NAEP is designed to assess how well a sample of students across the entire nation and individual states perform in reading and mathematics. Not all students participate in NAEP, and no parents know how their own children do on this test. In contrast, the voluntary national tests will provide students, parents, and teachers with meaningful scores to compare individual student performance to widely accepted national and international standards and to identify students and schools that need extra help. These standard measures of excellence will help parents hold schools accountable for improved performance, help teachers and principals improve curriculum and instruction, and give students a guide for charting their own progress.

The tests will be available for the first time in the spring of 1999 and updated each year. Individual test scores will not be collected by the federal government; state and local school districts will decide how to use the data. States and school districts will have the option to administer the tests as part of their local testing programs.For more information, visit the voluntary national tests web site at http://www.ed.gov/nationaltests/

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What's New - September 1997

Tobacco Settlement Review

Service Employees International Union

Land Mines

President Clinton’s Remarks on Back to Work

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Air Force

America Goes Back to School

United Nation's General Assembly

Helping America Reach High Standards

Remarks at AFL-CIO Convention

Income and Poverty Report

Four Seasons Elementary School