THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AND SECRETARY RILEY IN ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON EDUCATION
The Map Room
4:25 P.M. EST
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Some of you --I guess none of you, maybe -- were at the last of these briefings that we did on microcredit about, I guess a little over a month ago. And I found it very helpful, and the reporters who were part of it also told me then and later that they found it helpful, too. So it's something that we want to continue doing on issues that are of importance, and ones in which I'm involved in some way or another.
And today we're going to talk about education, which those of you who cover the President regularly know is one of his primary concerns for this second term. But it's really a concern that goes back to his time as governor. And I know Ron -- I don't think anybody else ever covered the President when he was governor -- knows it's been something that I've been involved in and worked on even back then, with Dick Riley, when he was a governor in South Carolina.
And what I'd hoped we'd do is to have a chance to talk with you. We've got Mike Smith, from the Department; Mike Cohen from the White House staff -- because sometimes those of you who cover the White House generally don't get a chance to really talk with the people who are helping to not only make the policy, but answer the questions about it. Because this is going to be a major effort and it's a very challenging one to try to follow up on the President's call for action for American education. And there are a number of issues, and we can talk about any of those. And as I'm sure Marsha told you, we can talk about other things as well. But I hope that we will be able to talk to a great extent about any questions or concerns you've got about what the President's proposing, how people are responding to it, what it means, will it work, what the point of it all is.
And I wanted to start by saying that we see this whole education agenda as a continuum of actions and concerns that the President's policy is attempting to address. It really starts with the very beginning of a child's life, which is why you've heard the President -- and those of you might have covered me -- talking a lot in the last several months about the first three years of life and the importance of preparing a child to be able to compete academically.
And we're going to be having a conference on early childhood development and learning to look at what the new research on the brain tells us about our youngest children in about a month or so from now -- the date will be announced, I hope, on Wednesday, so we can get it locked down. But it's going to be a look at what the latest neuroscientific research has really opened up to us as a better understanding of what happens to a brain in those first days, weeks, months of life -- and then what does that mean for parents.
You know, some people are already concerned that they haven't done enough to raise their children's serotonin level or to create a lot of synapses in the brain. And this is not supposed to be a discussion about research that makes parents feel inadequate but, instead, to make it clear that good parenting without knowing about serotonin levels has always done what works. If you read to your child, if you talk with your child, if you -- now we know -- play music for your child, you are doing what is necessary to feed that child's brain.
It used to be, perhaps, a little softer. And for those of us who have talked about early childhood for more than 25 years, I sometimes felt that I didn't get maybe a lot of people's awareness raised as high as I would like, because the people who worry about these issues are very often the ones that don't need to worry about them. And for many other people whom we would like to help with their parenting, this information never gets to them. So talking about the brain, we think, gives us a tremendous opportunity to reach people who have not been reached before and to, perhaps, put into scientific terms what most of us have tried to do just because we thought it would be a nice thing to do and might help our children.
Then we're going to talk about what all sectors of society can do to enhance early development and support families. It won't be any surprise to you that I think it takes a village. And I think that when we talk about what we should do to help parents -- particularly young parents, single parents, parents in stressful situations -- to get the support, the example that they may need to find the time to read 20 minutes to their child, that there's a role for a lot of people to play in putting into effect this new research which is very exciting.
But that's how we really think of where we begin with the call for action, because if we do a better job in helping parents talk with, relate to, stimulate their children positively, then everything else that we're going to be doing will have a much better chance of succeeding. We're going to be focusing on the pre-school years. We're going to be trying to determine how we can do a better job of reaching child care providers, Head Start programs, others who care for children with this information, as well; and to try to help them, too, understand what their opportunities are when they do care for children.
And then we see all the way through this call to action what happens once a child enters school, how to keep the partnership with the family going, and then what does a school have to do and how do we begin to define what it is that we expect from our education system.
If you have followed education -- I know there are some in here today who are very involved in reporting on education -- you know that there has been a movement for a number of years to try to set rigorous national standards, which is what the President has called for. And you'll hear in a minute that that has been proceeding, that practically all the states are in the process of setting standards. And that is exactly what the President foresees.
But in order to help bring some focus to the setting of national standards, the President has called for national tests in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, to make sure our children are able to master the basics. And this is what he has been talking about in legislatures, like Maryland and Michigan, and it really fits in with America Reads, it fits in with the technology initiative, it fits in with teacher training -- all of which are part of this overall call for action.
I'd like to ask the Secretary to speak because, as I said, I guess I first worked with then-Governor Riley, I don't remember, 15 years ago, a long time ago, when we were all working on education reform in our states, the southern states particularly where the need was so demonstrably great. And nobody has been at this longer, worked harder at or has actually more to show than this Secretary in terms of what has been done for the last four years.
SECRETARY RILEY: Thank you very much. And I appreciate the chance to be with you and Dr. Marshall Smith; my acting deputy, Mike Smith, is here also.
When I think back to 1983, when The Nation At Risk first came out, I was in the middle of school reform in South Carolina. The Education Improvement Act we called it, which was very controversial and it was said by the Rand Corporation to be the most comprehensive of any of the states -- it was in here, it was big. It involved a lot of controversial things like taxes or whatever. Our state was a very low support system for education. And we were in the middle of this important fight and I was going all out with it. The people were for it; the legislature wasn't. And the people and I were trying to get the legislature to support this major education reform.
And about that time The Nation At Risk came out. Ted Bell was here, as you recall. And I can't tell you how much it helped in South Carolina to have a national thrust of something that was important to the nation. It just caught on with our state reform. It gave us a tremendous impetus forward and it was right exciting to see that happen.
Then as we followed a lot of reform then in the '80s, a lot of governors were very much involved in a lot of ways -- a lot of them started out of the south. And then in, of course, '89, when we had all the governors come together -- Bill Clinton was one of the leaders with George Bush -- and came out for the goals and the standards discussions, which were serious. So we come on in to where we are then with Goals 2000 in 1994 and School-to-Work and a lot of the things that have happened.
When I first came here and the Department of Education was considered to be on the "hit list" -- somebody said the other day now we've gotten on the "hot list." So we've gone from the "hit list" to the "hot list." But when we were looking at things in 1994, we were so excited to see the framework being made for national support of the states in terms of developing a national standards movement that was really meaningful. And now we see 48 states now that have content standards -- some are stronger than others, but see that kind of energy occurring. Getting standards down into the classroom is very difficult, and that's the process that is taking place now.
And then the testing that the President has proposed really puts a focus on it that we think is going to be extremely important. I've been all over the country, talked to parents and educators and whatever -- leaders -- and it is to me seen as a very important focus for us to -- in those two basic skills, 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, with algebra and some geometry.
I was just up in New York this morning, and to show you how that's moving, this was a look at Central Park East Secondary School, a little small high school that has a well-known reputation. But we're looking at the school-to-work kind of approach, preparing young people for careers and college -- all young people, to have them thinking college. This school, a very disadvantaged generally student body, and 97.5 percent of the students finish high school and they would be entitled to a HOPE Scholarship under the President's proposal. Ninety percent go to college. Not too many years ago it was under 50 percent in that area.
So what we're doing is taking that school and four others in four other urban areas and showing what works and how it works well. And we've gotten some of the top educators in the country involved in that process -- we announced it this morning in New York -- really getting standards out there where they're meaningful to all students and all families and all parents. And it's not just something that we talk about in educational circles, to get the engaging work down in the classrooms where young people are learning in depth and what matters.
Now, if you look at what we then need in this country to do the job in education that the American people are absolutely into -- and I think all of you that have polls in your papers or networks or whatever know that -- is leadership. That's what we need. We need to reach parents. We need to reach students and teachers and others -- leaders, community leaders in this movement for high standards. And the things are in place. The states are getting the standards in there on down to the classroom. So leadership I think is what we need. I think the President and the First Lady are providing that leadership, and I am very honored to be a part of this team.
I would close my little remark by saying Richard Elmore -- who many of you perhaps know as a education research person at Harvard, very well respected and written a number of books -- and he said the other day of a goals panel meeting that he traveled all around the country, been in a lot of major urban areas and in every urban area -- major urban area in this country, he said, you can find three of the very best schools in the world, and you can find three of the very worst. Now, that says to me that there is a best way of doing it, like Central Park East, and you can develop that kind of motivation, that kind of a spirit of the belief in education. That can be done and we're going to show it. And it's really from here on out, I think, it's very important just to stimulate parents and grandparents and others to believe in their children and believe in education and that's a big part of what we're doing.
MRS. CLINTON: I also want to be sure that you understand how the President sees this and how the Secretary is planning it, because he often -- the President often says we want national, not federal standards. And that's really what he means; that there are, as the Secretary said, about 48 states that are working, and most of them very effectively, on creating standards.
But what we need in order for those states and the parents who live in those states and the kids who go to those schools and the teachers who teach in them to know whether or not the standards that are being implemented are really going to produce the results that we all want for our children is some form of measurement. And that's where the test comes in. And Mike Smith has been involved in education for a very long time and is really on the front line working on determining what tests to be used, how the tests will be used. And I wanted him to talk a little bit about what it is we're going to do, what these tests are, because I think that's where a lot of the questions as we proceed will come.
MR. SMITH: Thank you. Let me motivate this a little bit. Last week, Mr. Engler came out for the tests. And on Saturday night, I guess, Mr. Lott came out against the tests. So there has been some disagreement in the Republican Party.
The Secretary mentioned that we were now at the point where about 48 states had standards, and a number of those states have assessments that measure those standards and things. In your packet, there is a chart which compares the National Assessment of Educational Progress standards with state standards. And what you see in that chart is that an awful lot of students pass state standards but do not pass National Assessment of Educational Progress standards. That happens in southern states; it also happens in states like Wisconsin. And what this is indicating is that while the standards movement is really moving well -- that is, lots of states are adopting standards; lots of states are moving with assessments; they're beginning to even train teachers to be able to teach to those standards so that kids can get rewarded for what they're taught -- although they're doing well, they're not setting very rigorous standards in many instances.
And they're also running into a little bit of a problem occasionally at the state level. In a way, we've hit a plateau in the standards movement. It's the plateau of implementation. It's a lot easier to put standards in place and assessments in place. It's a lot harder to bring it down to the classroom, as the Secretary said. And we're hitting the point where the states are not, in many cases, adopting really rigorous standards. So we have two problems.
The President thought about it; the Secretary has thought a lot about this problem -- that is, the problem of not having the states set high standards and of the plateau itself, thought about a bunch of different strategies to try to overcome the problem, and settled on the strategy of having two national tests.
Now, it's kind of an odd thing to choose in some ways, but really these tests are seen as a wake-up call. It's putting high octane gasoline into the engine of the reform in some sense. The two tests were very carefully chosen. A 4th-grade test based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the 4th-grade test is in reading. And if there is one time in reading, one time in a child's life when a test in reading is absolutely critical, it's in 4th grade, because children that don't do well in reading in 4th grade end up not doing well throughout high school, not going on to college. It's the best predictor of not graduating from high school.
And the reason is that in the United States most schools stop teaching reading at 4th grade, in the middle of 4th grade and beyond. Students are expected to read for meaning, read for understanding. They're expected to read textbooks in science and in English literature and in social studies and history to get understanding from them. And if they can't read independently, they're lost. They're lost for all those other subjects. They're also lost for math, because at that point they're beginning to get word problems in math. So reading at 4th grade is an absolutely critical time. And if we don't have all of our children reading well by the 4th grade, we as a country suffer.
Right now, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, there are three levels of proficiency: basic level; proficient level, which is the level we'd like everybody to get to at some point; and an advanced level. Even at the basic level, 40 percent of our students don't succeed to that level. That's a real tragedy, and those students need to be helped.
That's, in effect, what America Reads is all about. It's real attempt to help those students reach at least a basic level. And there is also an attempt to get other kids up beyond the basic level to proficient and so on. But that's why we chose the test, 4th-grade reading, because it has this tremendous importance to the nation and because it's a basic skill and because it's a proficiency that everybody believes in. I mean, it's not controversial, like evolution or like teaching about the Civil War and reasons for it and so on. It's completely noncontroversial.
The same thing is true about 8th-grade mathematics. In 8th-grade mathematics, if you haven't gotten decent mathematics by 8th grade, you're not going to get the opportunity to go and take college courses in high school. If all you've had is basically arithmetic up through 8th grade, you're going to end up in remedial courses in high school, maybe a pre-algebra by the time you hit your sophomore year or so, but you're never really going to have the chance to go into those kinds of courses where the kids are going to go on, and know that they're going to go on to college.
Now, the United States received a wake-up call in mathematics about three months ago or four months ago, when the Third International Math and Science Study came out. And what that study showed was that in science we did above average internationally. This is a study of 41 nations, I believe. In science we did above average. In mathematics we did well below average, as an entire country. Statistically we were ahead of almost no country that we would consider advanced. They were all developing nations that we were ahead of. I believe we were ahead of 10 or 12 countries, something like that. So it's really pretty discouraging to take a look at a set of scores like that.
But what was encouraging about the study was that it gave some reasons why we didn't score as well as many of our competitors. And these reasons are not -- this is not rocket science, folks. These reasons are pretty straightforward. What it says is that we don't do as well -- is, one, we don't teach the content that others learn in schools. We don't get the algebra and geometry and the more complicated math problems. We just -- are kids just aren't taught them. It's very, very simple. They just aren't taught them.
And second, our teachers teach differently than teachers in other countries. Teachers in other countries spend much more time on problems, much more time interacting with their students about the nature of the problems and about how to go about solving the problems. Teachers in the United States spend much more time showing you how to solve the problem, not inducing you to solve it yourself, not inducing you to get actively involved, not inducing you to think hard about how to solve that problem and how to solve problems like it in the future. So our teachers teach differently and our teachers give different content.
Now, that's the second reason -- that's a second reason for doing algebra or doing mathematics in 8th grade. The first reason was that it is a tipping point; it's a gateway into high school, into good high school math. The second reason is that we know what to do about this.
And the third reason is that we also have good tests in 8th grade mathematics. We have the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, and we have this Third International Math and Science Study.
So what we chose then were two basic skill areas, one in 4th-grade reading and one in 8th-grade math, both noncontroversial. The nation believes that students should be able to achieve to high proficient levels in each of those grades in those two subjects. And we were able to adopt tests based on existing good assessments. Now, the existing assessments are given out to samples. They're not given out to individual students. So we have to create some new tests. We have to create a new test in reading for individual students and a new test in math for individual students. And we'll do that over the next two years. These tests will be ready in 1999. They will be tests that are then in effect licensed to states and to private test developers so they can put in their test batteries. This is not a brand new test that's going to added on to schools, in effect. It will be introduced in the context of the assessments that are already given.
The tests themselves will give students an idea -- students and their parents and their teachers and so on -- an idea about how they measure up nationally. Did they reach the basic level? Did they reach the proficient level? Did they reach the advanced level in both of them? And in 8th-grade math, how do they compare internationally. Did they at least reach the international mean or median? Did they reach higher than that?
Information from those tests will not be gathered by the federal government. We ask that that information be used at the state and local level, at the classroom level, be given to parents along with a lot of explanation about the nature of test itself and what students should be expected to learn.
After those tests are given in the spring of 1999, they will be released on the Internet and made available to everybody --
MRS. CLINTON: The problems.
MR. SMITH: The problems themselves, right. To home schoolers, for example, or to anybody else who wants to give these test or study the tests. In the interim, between now and 1999, the Department of Education, as the President announced yesterday, consortia of different agencies in the government, all of us will enlist the help of nongovernmental organizations outside of all the educational groups of the states and local governments and education, to try to get our nation ready for those kids to take the test in 1999.
So we will push very, very hard to get everybody reading independently by 4th grade and very, very hard to get everybody up to snuff in mathematics by 8th grade. So these tests aren't there just to embarrass people. They aren't there just to get people to give people scores. They're there to really give a call to action, in effect, for the nation -- a call to action to get our students to a point where, one, every child can read independently, and, two, we can be competitive in mathematics as a nation.
There's lots of detail on this that you may or may not want to hear, so I think I'll just stop here.
Q Should they be given the tests if they're not even getting the training or the instruction?
MR. SMITH: I think that's a very good question. That's exactly the right question. If they're not getting the instruction, then they aren't going to do well on the test. Between now and 1999, we want to encourage everybody to give them the instruction. We're going to make available all the information about the tests. We're going to make it available to everybody out there what are good methods to teach. And we still don't expect lots of kids to do very well. It will take five years or maybe even 10 years to get them to do as well as we'd like them to do. But if we don't do this now, if we don't do it now, we'll never break into this cycle.
We tolerate a weak curriculum for poor kids and a strong curriculum for the well-to-do. And as a nation, we can't continue to tolerate doing that. And the curriculum for well-to-do kids isn't even very strong in mathematics. So we're tolerating weak curriculum in mathematics for everybody and a very weak curriculum in mathematics for our kids in our inner cities.
Q Have they solved the discipline problem where they can actually get down to teaching again in these schools?
MRS. CLINTON: That's another really good question, Helen. I think a lot of districts, at least as I've traveled around and talked to principals and school board members, are beginning to take back discipline from this false idea that grew up sometime in the last 20 or so years that legally it was very difficult for a teacher in a classroom to discipline anybody. And many school boards and administrations didn't stand behind teachers. And so there were and are a lot of classrooms that are disruptive and difficult to teach in.
But my sense is -- and Mike and the Secretary are out there all the time -- is that there is a growing willingness on the part of school districts to take back their authority and to be willing to set much tougher rules, remove disruptive kids from classrooms, and try to create an orderly learning environment which, if you don't have that, a lot of what Mike is talking about that needs to be taught can be taught.
Q Will there be a clearinghouse where we'll be able to call and find out how people have scored across the nation, or are we going to have to call each state individually? You know, you talk about -- you were trying to be careful to get heavy-handed with the federal role, but are we going to be able to find out on a nationwide basis how people scored?
MR. SMITH: Well, there are two ways to find out on a nationwide basis. One would be aggregate all the scores for the individual level. The test is voluntary. We don't expect every community to take this test. We expect lots of states to take it. We hope every community in every state takes it. We expect -- you know, there will be some holdouts, at least the first year. So one way would be aggregate the individual scores, and we don't intend to do that now. So it would put you to work a little bit; you'd have to call a bunch of different places. The second way, though, is that there will be -- continue to be this sample basis, national assessment, which will give a national score but it will be based on a sample.
SECRETARY RILEY: The NAEP test will still be going on and they are equated. The NAEP test, some that might be of help to you, is done on a sample basis. As some of you I'm sure know, you have a country or a state or a city or whatever and get a NAEP test, but you -- it would be a sampling -- the person that takes the test -- if you were taking math in NAEP in 8th grade, you might just do the multiplication part and then you would do the division and somebody else would do another part. If you took the whole test it would take like seven hours.
So, that -- so, this is different. So, now we've got to equate with the NAEP baseline and individual test, so you would take all subjects -- if you see what I mean -- and all students would take all subjects. Every child in the 4th grade and every child in the 8th grade would be offered these tests.
Q So you don't really intend to collect all the results -- is that -- nationwide? Is that right?
MR. SMITH: That's right.
Q You may have a sample for us to give us an idea, but you won't have --
MR. SMITH: We'll have a sample for you. We also expect and we'll -- we will get out models for local districts to report the results of schools, report the results of their districts. We expect states to accumulate their results to take a look across the states at schools and at the districts. So, I think we're going to find that willy-nilly will have across the country scores kind of bubbling in.
But these will -- these tests will given at the same time that tests are now given. And if you think back to your school time, that could be at any time during the spring -- starting April up through the middle of May or so. So, the tests will be given at a number of different times. It's not all going to be given at once. Scores will come back sometime in the middle of May, and then the cities, states will begin to report them out to the public. And as they begin to report out, we'll accumulate -- of course -- after they're reported out. But we're not going to go in and take those measures ourselves. We're walking a little bit of a line here on the federal-state issue.
SECRETARY RILEY: But the important thing is that every parent -- every parent and every student will know how they stand on these two very basic -- in a transitionAL period in the whole nation.
Q -- districts where they've chosen to give these tests, and isn't one problem you're going to have here is that the districts that already have the problems -- have these inherent problems of either teachers not teaching right or not enough money in the district or the administrators not doing their job -- they're going to be the least likely teachers unions and least likely administrators to put their credibility in line and allow these tests to be given in their schools?
SECRETARY RILEY: Now, that will be more or less on a statewide basis. And as you know, the President's proposal is -- number one, is that we would develop the test. We would equate it with NAEP and TIMSS. That takes -- and also, we would have it administered free the first year. So, it would be zero cost to them. And we think there will be just a national --
Q What's the real purpose of the test? Is it to inform the teachers?
Q Given what happened in Milwaukee, will people want to take that test? Because you saw what happened in Milwaukee -- there were very few students who actually passed the test. And one thing we know about public education in this country is that the quality varies greatly. And will we -- are you concerned about this sort of academic stratification and we create this chasm betweens the haves and the have-nots?
MR. SMITH: We're completely concerned about that. And that's one of -- that's the major reason we're doing this.
SECRETARY RILEY: This will affect it positively.
MR. SMITH: Michigan just signed up for the test.
MRS. CLINTON: That means all the districts in Michigan. So that sort of solves the --
MR. SMITH: And Maryland has signed up, so, it's Baltimore. And so, in many cases, what you're going to have are states signing up. In the other cases -- I guarantee you're going to see New York come in at some point soon and New York City and L.A. and so on.
Mike, you might want to --
MR. COHEN: Well, you actually made several points I was going to make. But the states that we've been talking to were signing up to do this on a statewide basis, so that every kid in the state will take it. And one of the things that that will do, I think, is tell parents in urban areas -- the ones that you're concerned might not want to sign up for the test -- in ways that they have very difficult time of finding out now -- they will be able to find out how well their kids are doing compared to real standards that the kids going to be judged against once they leave schools. You know the phenomena of kids in any schools, but particularly in urban schools, getting all easy chair and being promoted and being told they're doing a really wonderful job only to discover that they're not doing very well in any external measure of quality.
This will be the first time that parents, particularly in urban areas, will have honest, accurate information about how well their kids are doing compared to the same kind of expectations that are set for students in surrounding suburban communities and for students all over the world. It ought to give -- it ought to empower parents to call for and mobilize for education reforms in ways that have been more difficult for them to do now, which is exactly what you saw in Milwaukee once the shock of the low performance on the test began to take hold.
Q Can this work, Mrs. Clinton, unless states require testing in all their schools?
MRS. CLINTON: I'm sorry --
Q Will this work unless states -- can this work if states do not require testing in all their schools?
MRS. CLINTON: Ron, I think it can work initially for this first effort because what we're trying to do is to get enough states and enough districts to agree voluntarily to do that. I think we will have that. I mean, I can, sitting here right now, tell you exactly how many we'll have. But the response to the President's call has been very positive.
And I think there will be then a kind of public pressure on school districts and states for those that perhaps choose not to participate in the test in 1999, because as a taxpayer, as a parent of a child in a school -- if you start reading about this and you call us and you say, well, how are our kids doing. And they say, well, we're not going to take the test. Why not -- why aren't we going to take the test? Well, we just decided we're going to take a different test. Well, why don't we take the test that everybody is taking? I may be transferred next year to some other school district. How do I know whether that's a good school district?
So, I think there will be increasing awareness on the part of the public. As Mike was saying, what happened in Milwaukee, I think, is a positive example. I mean, the initial shock of it was disturbing to people. But the positive feedback then was, alright, what are we going to do about this?
So, I'm actually very optimistic that once we get the test fielded with enough people taking it in 1999 that that will create a momentum of its own. At least, that's what we believe will happen.
Q Mrs. Clinton, are there ways beyond these speeches to the state legislatures to try to bring Republicans on, to get them to join -- to participate in -- is the White House doing other outreach, too, not just to Democrats but to Republicans?
MRS. CLINTON: Yes. And again, Mike and the Secretary can fill you in on more details. But from the very beginning -- and I think the President said this most memorably in Maryland when he said that algebra and other courses are not partisan -- and there's got to be a way to enlist all kinds of people. And I think that with Governor Engler signing on, I believe there will be some other announcements in the next couple of weeks of other Republican governors signing on -- I know there has been an intensive effort on the part of the White House and the Department of Education to work with members of Congress of both parties, and I think that we're very hopeful.
Now, are we going to be able to get everybody to agree? No, we're not. And, is there still going to be continuing questioning about what this means and how it's going to work? Absolutely, there will be. But I think, on balance, for having just announced it a month and a half ago, everybody is pleased at the way it's proceeding.
Dick, do you want to add anything about the partisan --
SECRETARY RILEY: Well, first of all, it's our position that education is not a partisan issue, and we don't teach children, as you've heard me say, as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans. And the fact that since the President has really placed education as a first priority and see it rise to the top in terms of the people's interest, I think it's very clear that really what we are seeing is a movement, kind of a standards movement. And I think it's happening.
And I would invite you to look at any numbers out there of public interest or whatever -- people -- and I go to schools every day -- people are absolutely into this thing. They want their children to be able to read when they are should be able to read -- at the end of the 3rd graders. If they can't then, that means they're going to demand and we're going to be demanding with them that something be done to make sure in the 4th and 5th grade that that child then gets the resources put to him or her to learn how to read. The whole volunteer program is to have a mentor or a tutor be with that child, perhaps from kindergarten forward at the teacher's request. The teacher is the one that says who will have a mentor or not, working closely with the teacher. And then, all of the teachers are into raising standards, principals and everybody else.
I think you're seeing a very exciting thing take place that I call a movement. And I hope that's going to be true. And it will be the best thing that will happen to this country.
Q Mr. Secretary, if you will, though, your enthusiasm for this movement seems contradictory to Mr. Smith's assertion that you've hit a plateau and that the states are themselves underachievers in not setting rigorous standards. What leverage do you have to move the states to set higher standards, or is it just through this kind of sort of bully pulpit approach?
SECRETARY RILEY: That has a lot to do with it, Charles. And it is the bully pulpit because I think it's something that they're listening to the leaders on. And that's why I'm glad we're here talking about it today. I don't think we've reached some kind of a plateau at all. If you look at the --
Q I'm sorry, I could have sworn I heard the word plateau from your colleague. That's what I find --
MRS. CLINTON: I'll give Mike an equal chance to respond because I think I know what he said, but he maybe --
SECRETARY RILEY: In reading, we have been pretty level in reading for some time. In math, where we've had math standards out there -- and just think about standards, if you would -- standards is a definition of what a child should know and be able to do in a certain grade in a certain subject. And then you put all the resources into reaching that standard. And you're not all here, there and yonder. And that makes sense. And that's what everybody's doing. In math, we've had the standards out there since the late '80s. In math, the recent NAEP test -- '90, '92 and '96 shows a constant uplift in 4th, 8th and 12th grade.
Now, reading, we haven't done as good a job, but internationally we stand pretty well reading. We're one of the top countries in reading, but our competitive problem is math and science in other countries. But you're right about reading being rather leveled off, and that's why we want this impetus on reading. And a lot of it is afternoons and evenings, and a lot of it is kids -- to some of you television people that are watching television instead of reading -- (laughter) -- and we're trying then to get more of an interest in reading early.
MRS. CLINTON: Mike, do you want to -- I want Mike to just --
SECRETARY RILEY: Defend yourself. (Laughter.)
MR. SMITH: If you take a look at -- let me just borrow this for just a second -- at this one chart, which is, I think, a telling chart in here, state NAEP scores for 4th grade reading compared to state's own assessments. And if you've looked at that, what you'll see is that in Connecticut against NAEP 38 percent scored proficient, in their own state assessment 48; Wisconsin 35 percent scored proficient, 88 in their own assessment; and so on.
That's the plateau I'm talking about. That is -- we have a movement that we hope -- we hoped -- and we still hope will result in high challenging standards for all kids. And if in fact our standards are low, that movement's stalled a little bit. Remember, it's only six years old. But if we let it stay with low standards, it will never succeed. We've got to jar it out of the low standards part of it. And that's what I meant.
MRS. CLINTON: It's like the end of Garrison Keillor, when he does his Lake Woebegone thing, he says, well all the children are above average. A lot of the states that Mike's talking about --the standards that have been set did make movement. I mean, I know that for a fact from Arkansas, where I know where we started in 1993 and I know where we are now.
But there's always a tendency to kind of rest on your laurels a little bit -- say, oh look how much better we're doing -- when, in fact, if you look at a broad-based assessment, like what we're going to be trying to do with this set of tests in 1999, everybody can do better.
And, Mike, you had your -- you wanted to add something to that?
MR. COHEN: Yes, I wanted to go back to an earlier question also about the bipartisanship and what we're doing to reach out to Republicans because I think that's very important
(End of side one of tape.)
(Begin side two of tape; in progress)
The Business Roundtable -- thank you, I'll pass this around -- the Business Roundtable, for instance, the day after The State of the Union addressed -- endorsed the testing proposal and mostly the other business groups have been very positively responding to it as well. So I think people who are not, again, part of what you would normally associate with the Clinton administration are nonetheless seeing this is the kind of effort that can bring people together around what's important in education. I think we will see them continue to build support for it.
Q So where is Chelsea going to college? (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: Somewhere with high standards. (Laughter.) I wanted to get back to your question about stratification, and it was really Helen's question as well. Nobody looks forward to the results of this test confirming what many of us assume by other evidence and anecdotally will be the case, which is large numbers of children, principally in disadvantaged situations, are not going to do well on this test; there is, I don't think, any way to get around that.
But that is the case right now. They're not doing well in any fair assessment of what they are learning and what they're able to at a level they're able to perform at when they leave school. And the real issue for us as we look at this is, what is the best way to try to help those children? How do we equip parents and schools and communities with the tools they need to demand and then to obtain better educational outcomes for these kids.
Well, the first thing, we believe, is you have to have honest, accurate information about what it is that they are learning right now, and that is a lot harder than it might seem, because there is not a willingness on the part of many people to trumpet their failures and their disappointments, and instead there is a tendency to say, well, what would you expect -- we have children from a certain socioeconomic background and you can't expect them to do very well. But we now know so much more than we knew in 1983, and even in 1989, about what works with such children.
As the Secretary said, we can go into any urban district and we can find, as he visited this morning, a school that takes the same kids from the same kind of neighborhoods where failure is the norm, and turns them into academic successes. The key is, why don't we replicate that more? Why don't we take the schools that work for these vulnerable children and make them the models? They are everywhere in our country, but for some reason that is often difficult to understand, they don't serve as models, and people don't line up at their door to find out what works, and in part because there's no sense of accountability out there in the entire educational system.
This is a first step to try to obtain that accountability. And then, if you look at the rest of the call for action, we know we have to do better teacher preparation and training. We think charter schools will be a way of helping. We think technology will be a way of helping. So we have a whole set of responses to what we think will be the unfortunate results of the tests for some people.
Q Let me follow up on that. How much -- you said you don't want the fact that it's a poor district to be an excuse for complacency or to explain away failure. How much of it, in your view, though, is explained by the resources that individual school districts have?
MRS. CLINTON: You know, that's a hard question, because I think -- I would rather answer it like this: I'd rather say all of it is probably explained by the resources available to a child from the moment that child is born until that child leaves school. Because I think if you only look at the school, you may miss some of the very important resources that have to take place in the family prior to the child going to school.
I've also -- and I think both the Secretary and Mike have seen this -- I've seen classrooms that are not all that well equipped where the magic of learning goes on and where the children are motivated and they do well. And I've seen other schools where they have a lot of computers and new equipment and the teachers aren't trained to use it. So that you can find almost any set of circumstances in an American school, and I guess I would say that, yes, resources count, but when I think of resources I think about the motivation and training of teachers, not just the salary or the facilities. I think that's one of the reasons we're trying to look at this in a comprehensive way.
SECRETARY RILEY: Let me mention something I think would be interesting to you when you're talking about disadvantaged people. Our biggest program by far, of course, is Title I, and that is a major help to state and local schools for disadvantaged kids.
When we came here four years ago, it was -- oh, Chapter I it was called then -- and it had a special watered down curriculum for disadvantaged kids, starting from kindergarten forward, went all the way through high school. It had a watered down set of assessment where a kid could go through school and virtually be practically learn very little and still get by, and one of the first things -- and the President and I talked about this a number of times is, we did away with that and we came out -- what has been the reauthorization, the new Title I -- it's the same standard for all children. And, yes, the test scores show a difference at first, but you will never, by being dishonest with them, you will never help them. Dishonesty can never be a good policy in education.
So the first thing we did is we urged, through Goals 2000 and everything else, to get standards up there, all the states, and then to do away with for poor children a watered-down curriculum and watered-down testing and making it tougher and harder, and it's the best thing in the world for those kids.
MRS. CLINTON: I just want to -- one quick example on that -- I've been in and out of schools a lot in the last couple of years, and just within the last couple of months I was in a school with kids who were poor, disadvantaged kids, however you want to describe them -- multiracial school, and the classroom was crackling with excitement. I mean, the kids were into hands-on learning, they were asking questions, they were talking with each other, and then a little while later I was in another school, a different district, same kind of socioeconomic and racial mix of kids, and they were sitting there in their seats copying sentences from a workbook.
Now, it broke my heart, because I walked around there and I looked at these bright young kids, laboriously copying what was in that workbook, and the teacher was very proud. This was the class they chose to show me. They could have taken me anywhere else. You know, it was so difficult, because here is a teacher who is devoted to these kids and the kids are trying hard, and yet the whole system in that school -- and I would I guess say in much of that district that the school was in -- just doesn't -- is not organized to prepare the kids with even the resources that it has -- better than they are doing. Because what I saw in the first school was not expensive. I mean, they were doing experiments with what floated and what didn't float and making lists about things. And these workbooks probably cost as much as what they were doing in the first class.
So part of what we have to do by using this testing information is to kind of open up the minds of people who are in the classroom already so they're more willing to change what they do and to use the resources they already have. And we think we can do that.
Q Mrs. Clinton, are you concerned that you might find more of those classrooms? I mean, the TIMSS studies said the teachers do not focus enough on problem-solving. And one of the reasons is that so many teachers teach to the test. They know that they face these standardized tests at the end of the year and they want to prepare the students for them, and so we've go this rote learning in the classrooms. We might see many teachers do this as they try to prepare their students for this test in 1999.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, Mike is the expert on this, but I'll let you -- go ahead.
MR. SMITH: They will teach to the test, but they won't teach to the test questions, which is what they often do in the United States. That is, they give the same tests year after year after year, something like the Lake Woebegone effect, actually, that a man reported a few years ago. And one way that happens is that the -- in many, many districts they give exactly the same form of the test year after year after year. And after a while, the teachers know what's on the form. And, lo and behold, if the word "ambiguous" is on that reading test, magically it occurs in the classroom three or four days before your test.
So teaching to the test has two meanings. One is teaching specifically to the test. The other is teaching the kind of content that the test is going to cover. And we're going to be very clear about what the content is that the test is supposed to cover. We're going to give examples using not the federal government now, but using the International Reading Association and using other organizations of what are good books that kids could be reading at second grade, third grade, fourth grade, reading independently -- the kinds of inferences they're expected to make out of paragraphs and short stories and so on -- the kinds of sentences they're expected to be able to write, for example when they're answering a question that isn't just a multiple choice question. Many of these questions will be questions actually to expect them to actually produce some language.
Q And you're confident that that will lead to dynamic classroom teaching and hands-on learning?
MRS. CLINTON: We've seen it. We have seen it.
MR. SMITH: It's not the test alone that will do that, it's an example, it's giving examples of teaching strategies that in fact lead to good results from those tests, and that will do it.
Q How far along are you in the development of the tests now? You say it's going to be arranged through competitive contracts. And the other thing I wondered was whether you could quantify so far your reaction to the tests -- you know, how many states are on board or whatever.
MR. SMITH: We're a month and a half into it, right -- this whole business announced -- we will be going out in the next 10 days on the Internet with what's called an RFP, which is a request for a proposal, which will attract comment for 10 days or so. We'll then have another 10 days to take advantage of those comments and change things, and then we'll put out the RFP. So within the next month and a half we'll have the RFP -- request for proposal on the street, we'll have it awarded by the summer, and we have a very detailed -- as you might imagine, this is a tight schedule -- we have a very detailed time line and right now we're a little bit ahead.
Q When you talk about awarding it by this summer, is there going to be like basically one group then that's going to come up to develop this test --
MR. SMITH: No, I think we'll probably have one group for one test and one group for another test, would be my guess. There will be a third group.
Q What kind of group are we talking about? Can you --
MR. SMITH: Well, it will be -- one obvious example is the Educational Testing Service, which now does the national assessment of educational progress. And I'm sure that they could be one of the winners of this. But they could have considerable competition as well.
SECRETARY RILEY: Well, we're building on the reputation of NAEP and TIMSS, which these are equated with and done the same way. So I mean, it's not like we're coming out of nowhere on this. We have a baseline, they're going to equate this test on the baseline, you'll be able to compare how you stand with how things were in the country five years ago, and so forth.
MR. SMITH: That's a very good point. Most tests take four or five years to develop. The reason they take four or five years to develop is you have to settle on the content that you want in the test first, and you have to settle on something called the performance standards. That is the levels that you want students to be able to achieve to.
We leapfrog those, because they're already in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They have a content standard, basically, that we would base the test upon. And that, in fact, we'll use that content standard to provide us with ideas about information that we should be putting out there to teachers and to parents and so on about what kind of content to teach.
SECRETARY RILEY: It is very well respected. And that's why you see people like this saying this makes good sense.
Q The second question was could you quantify how many states are interested already or have indicated interest? Is D.C. --
MR. COHEN: So far two have publicly signed up, but I would say there are another eight to 10 that we have talked with in the last couple of weeks that have expressed a serious interest. Keep in mind, states don't adopt tests overnight. This is a serious decision for a state to make.
Q -- don't know what the test is yet.
MR. COHEN: They know what's on the test and they know a fair amount about what the specifications for the test are going to be.
Q Who has signed --
MR. COHEN: Michigan and Maryland. And I think you'll see --
Q Have you had any communication with them --
MR. COHEN: I have not talked to anyone in D.C.
Q Will there be any consequence for the test for either the school districts or students themselves, either encouraging the schools not to pass them on to the next grade, or is this just an assessment of how they --
MR. SMITH: Well, remember those decisions are all made at the local and state level. and that's not a cop-out, in the sense that this test will be like any other test in that sense. It will be in a test battery and -- a set of other tests. And if they use the other tests for purposes of that sort, they might use this test. Now, this test will have to meet the same standards. There is something called psychometric standards and they're set by the American Psychological Association, and the National Council of Measurement in Education and so on, and they set out a set of standards. The test will have to meet all those standards.
Part of the standards have to do with what a test is used for, and so the test has to meet certain standards in order to be used for what's called a high stakes test -- a retention test or graduation test.
Q Mrs. Clinton, in Arkansas, when you decided something needed to be done about the schools that you and your husband had some effect over, you worked to require that teachers be tested, you worked to require the school districts have certain standards that be met. I know it's apples and oranges and maybe you can explain why it is, but why didn't you require here that states perform these tests?
MRS. CLINTON: Because education is primarily a state and local responsibility in our country, and I think there are a lot of strengths to that. And when the President talked about national, not federal, standards, and voluntary testing, he was respecting that division of responsibility. So in Arkansas, which at the state level accredits schools, accredits teachers, there were certain ways of exercising that responsibility that could be connected with the outcome of the test. At the federal level that is not authority vested in the federal government and it's not authority that the President and the Secretary is seeking.
Q Are you afraid that with Mr. Lott's opposition that there may be some way Congress tries to block this, and if not Congress, individual state legislatures that may challenge decisions made by their governor or their state chairman of the Board of Education?
MRS. CLINTON: The Secretary has Mr. Lott's statement in front of him so --
SECRETARY RILEY: I don't see where he opposes testing as such. He made a broad statement to a group of conservatives -- now derail the President's plan to revitalize education standards. I mean, certainly someone could say, well, that testing was a part of that, but I don't see that as an attack on testing itself.
MRS. CLINTON: But I think part of the reason why I thought that we might want to talk about education standards is that I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about what this proposal is and what it would do. And I would hope that everyone would take the time to talk to the Secretary or Mike Smith about what it is we're trying to achieve and how it is not an attempt to micromanage what goes on in the classrooms of America, but instead, to set a national benchmark against which local districts can measure themselves.
And I think in this time of accountability in both the public and the private sector, and particularly in education, as more school districts and states learn that that is what this test is for, I think they will be more and more willing to say they want to be part of that. It will help them with their job.
Q How worried are you by the sort of extreme right -- it's not the Business Council that's going to provide the opposition to this, it's a group that you're familiar with and have spoken with on other occasions -- it's talk radio, it cultural conservatives, it's the Christian right who this touches a nerve on them and, frankly, you touch a nerve on them -- or so I've heard. (Laughter.) How do you deal with that?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think the President's speeches in Maryland and Michigan really did deal with that effectively. There will be opposition no matter what is done in education because it's such an important issue and people feel so personally about their children's education and about the future of education in the country. I don't think that the opposition should be troubling at all. I think that's healthy for people to raise questions and debate.
But what I'm hoping is that through speeches by the President and others who share his commitment to this effort, more and more Americans will understand what it is, so that if someone makes a charge against what the President is trying to do, they will be able to sort that out and say, well, that's not what he's trying to do. He's not going into a local school district and say here's what you must teach on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He's saying here's what we think 4th graders ought to be able to do in reading, and here's what we think 8th graders ought to be able to do in math. It is up to you, local school districts, to think of the most effective way to move your students to be able to achieve at that level.
Q He raises a good point, because you have become identified with this initiative, you're traveling around the country, and groups for whom this is a lightening rod have also in the past made you a lightening rod. And I'm wondering, given that circumstance, both how you are received when you go out and why you would take this on, because of that -- of the opposition.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I guess the first reason is because I've worked on it since 1983 when I chaired the Commission on Education Standards in Arkansas and we ran into some of the very same issues. And I think I have a good appreciation for the legitimate concerns people have. But there are those who for partisan or ideological reasons will not ever support any kind of national standard or national assessment. And I just respectfully think that they are wrong and that a commitment to national standards is the best way we know to help local districts benchmark their own practices and to come up with ways that will help all the children achieve at a higher level.
So it's something that I have a long history with, I am very committed to, and I think is the most important way that I know of that we can try to move every young person up the educational latter.
But Dick was the Governor of South Carolina; he's well aware of the kind of opposition that is out there, but we just don't see it. It may burn up some radio talk show host's telephone lines, but that's not what we hear and see as we're traveling around talking to teachers and parents and students.
Is that your experience?
SECRETARY RILEY: I think you're exactly right. And the President, of course, is a former governor, I'm a former governor --we are very respectful of the state's responsibility. Every state constitution requires free public education for all children in the state. That's a state responsibility. The federal role is very important in this country in this education era-information era, and certainly our role we think is very important.
The conservatives, if there's anything that they are clear about, is to emphasize the basics. That is in education terms, that is the clearest message -- one of the clear messages you get from strong conservative parents, is to emphasize the basics. That's what we're doing, and that's why this is, in my judgment, something that I think is going to be uniformally accepted and even demanded by conservative parents. They want to know how their children are doing on the basics. And as the President said, reading is reading, and math is math, and that is a clear demarcation of the very basic basics in education.
Q On a different subject, I think we'd be remiss if we didn't ask you about the campaign finance controversy that's going on. Specifically, do you think in perfect 20-20 hindsight that it would have been better if Maggie hadn't taken that check -- or rejected the check and said, hey, just bring that down the street to the DNC?
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, I think as the President said on Friday, in retrospect, I'm sure that she wishes that's what she had done. But many of you know Maggie and she's an honorable and courteous person, and what she did is legal and proper under the prevailing rules. But given the concern that it raised, I'm sure she wishes she had said, go mail it or go walk it over yourself.
Q Do you wish she had done that?
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, for her sake, certainly, yes.
Q Do you wonder, or have you wondered how it was that this fellow, Johnny Chung, came to sort of apparently camp out in your outer office, hoping that he would see you, chatting up the staff, there for reasons that were not apparently readily apparent to anyone there? What happened?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think that my staff is a polite and courteous group, and certainly has over the last four years been very willing to be courteous to people who came into the White House or who had business they said in the White House or the Old Executive Office Building. And if you were there, I guess the only way I can explain it is that that's what they thought they were doing, is being courteous.
Q And may I just ask how it was that he came to be admitted so often?
MRS. CLINTON: I don't know that. I don't know anything about that. But it wasn't only people in my office who admitted him, as I'm sure you know; other people did as well. And I really don't know anything about why or under what circumstances.
Q Well, given the whole campaign and the Lincoln Bedroom and all of the things -- the revelations and may even be sort of deflecting from the issues you're trying to promote, it seems to be -- what would you do differently in retrospect? I mean, do you have any regrets? Did you talk to these people at midnight in the Lincoln Bedroom?
MRS. CLINTON: We certainly did, Helen. I mean, I think that -- I'd say a couple of things about that. First of all, anyone who knows my husband knows that he enjoys people, he counts thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people among his friends. He likes spending time with people. When we arrived here at the White House, I think we were overwhelmed by the honor of living here and by the history that happened here, and we were excited to share it with a lot of people. And we did.
We invited friends of longstanding, people we wanted to get to know better, public officials that -- well, Secretary Riley spent the night here with his father. It was something that --
SECRETARY RILEY: A confession is in order, I think.
MRS. CLINTON: It was something that we really felt privileged about being able to share with people who felt the same regard and valued this house the way I think Americans do. We also invited hundreds of thousands of people to events here at the White House of all kinds. You've covered many of them. And so when I look at people asking questions about why did you have these people spending the night, it, to me, was a very natural part of who my husband is and who are friends are and who people that he wants to talk to are. And he would, oftentimes when he heard somebody was in town or might be on the way to Washington, say, gosh, I'd love to see him or her and talk to them, which he did with Dick Riley's father.
And during the day, because he worked so amazingly hard, there wasn't time. But if they'd stay up and stick it out, he could come and talk to them at 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m. or 1:00 a.m. in the morning. And he did on countless occasions. These are people that he enjoyed being able to give tours to -- I cannot tell you how many times, in the middle of the night, we'd be walking up and down the ground floor or the first floor, and the President would be talking about the significance of a portrait, or what happened in this room. Anyone who has ever spent any time with him knows that he just reveres living here. But I hope everyone knows how gregarious and truly outgoing he is, that he would want to share that with as many people as possible.
SECRETARY RILEY: Since my name came up -- (laughter) -- I had -- my father was 93 years old and was really beginning to slip. He was very close friends with the President and the President asked him to come spend the night. And so we came with him, and it was a great gesture.
Q Mrs. Clinton, do you fell confident there was no blurring of the lines on your side, whether it was the stop in Guam which has been written about, or anything subsequently? And have you taken any additional steps beyond what the White House has to ensure some things be done differently in the future?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think that the President has pretty much outlined what people will be thinking about in the future, and certainly no one likes to be held up for any kind of public inquiry, and nobody did anything that they thought was wrong at the time or that they were advised was wrong. So, that certainly nobody did anything that was improper, but nobody wants to raise even the shadow of a doubt about what is or is not appropriate behavior. So that's why, even for actions that are within the realm of propriety and legality, that it's going to be common sense to be much more careful so that nobody does anything that can raise any questions.
Q Mrs. Clinton, on Johnny Chung, I believe the record shows that on 21 of the 50 occasions he was here, he was, in fact, cleared through your office. Are you saying you don't know why any of those 21 events occurred, other than a courteous staff?
MRS. CLINTON: I don't know. I don't keep track with who is waved into the White House. That's not something I have any knowledge of. And I don't know what he was telling anybody or what he was asking anybody. I just don't have any knowledge of that.
Q Could I just ask, did it ever occur to you, since this is your house as well, who are these people -- the ones that perhaps Ann Lewis described as not yet friends? That's a curious locution.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, we knew everybody who was invited. We may not have been the best of friends with everybody; we may not have known everybody for 30 or 40 years, but we knew everybody who was invited. And some we knew very well and some we were just getting to know. But they were all people that the President wanted to spend time with. And he did.
Q Mrs. Clinton, do you know specifically who in your office admitted Mr. Chung?
MRS. CLINTON: I wouldn't -- I don't know anything about that.
Q -- Vice President's acknowledged making some fundraising phone calls, and the President said he couldn't quite rule that out on himself. Did you make any of those kind of phone calls yourself during the campaign?
MRS. CLINTON: I do not recall making any, but I'm not going to say absolutely never. I just don't ever recall being asked to make any; I don't recall making any.
Q Were you involved in fundraising?
MRS. CLINTON: I certainly was, and I'm very pleased that I was, Helen. I think that there's a tendency to fast-forward through what was going on in '94 and '95 that made all of us who believed in what the President was doing and what the odds were against the policies that he had been championing, to be as hard-working and enthusiastic as we could about trying to help him with his agenda. And that included many things. It was many, many speeches; it was many, many events. And it was also trying to help raise money for the message that the President wanted to try to get out.
Because when I think back on that period, it is very clear in my mind as I think back, that the Gingrich revolution, the Contract on America, all of that was going full-blast, and the message about deficit reduction and the crime bill and gun control and education and the environment was just getting swallowed up -- so that the President's agenda, those of us who supported it, thought was right for the country.
Q It never occurred to you that some of this money might be coming from foreign sources?
MRS. CLINTON: No, it never occurred to me. But, Helen, I didn't have any responsibility for keeping up with any of that.
Q Can I ask one non-campaign question before we go back on policy, although not totally related to education? On welfare reform -- did you see the article in the Atlantic that Peter Edelman wrote about Bill Clinton's biggest mistake? If you didn't see it, you must have clearly been familiar with the argument of both Marian Wright Edelman. They are such close friends and this has been an issue that has been so close to you -- I was curious to your reaction when people who are longtime friends and longtime ideological soulmates make criticism that direct about administration policy. How do you react to that and how do you respond to those people?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I respect their opinion, because they have earned the right to express an opinion. They have worked, both of them, very hard over many years on behalf of the underlying social and economic problems that cause people to be impoverished and have less opportunities than we'd want them to have. And this was an honest disagreement, and I have no bad feeling at all about that. We just see differently the way to the same objective.
There's no doubt in my mind that we all want to give people the tools of opportunity including education so that they can make good decisions in their own lives. The question is, how do we get there, and sometimes people who agree on goals will disagree on process or steps to be taken.
Some of your questions about the test suggest legitimate concern -- what will happen when this test is given and people don't do well. I'm very concerned about that. But having thought it through for many years, I don't see any other way. And the President has become the leading spokesman for saying we have to do this in order to get to the goal we all want. And I feel the same way about welfare.
Q Well, you supported his signing.
MRS. CLINTON: Yes, I did.
Q You never said that at the time, though. I mean, you were very silent.
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, yes, I did.
Q Did you?
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, yes, I did. I said that I supported his signing. I had problems with certain sections of the bill; I said that at the time as well. But we are in a new era of working out the relationships in our society and certainly understanding the role of government and creating conditions in which people have a maximum chance to flourish and make their own way in life. And I'm not sure that any of us know exactly what's going to work, so that we're all trying as hard as we can to make the best decision based on the evidence we have available to us. And we have to be flexible and we have to be willing to take evidence like the results of tests and make hard decisions and try to do better. And we have to take evidence like what happens when welfare reform is implemented and what happens to the children, particularly, and make sure that we have plans to be able to deal with that.
But I think you have to proceed on the assumption that we are trying to get to the same goal. And that's why I have absolutely no argument with people who say, that's not how I would have done it. And I think we have to keep the dialogue going and keep open to what critics who are acting in good faith are saying, so that we can try to do a better job.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 5:46 P.M. EST