THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Clarksburg, West Virginia) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 22, 1997
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN EDUCATION TOWN HALL MEETING
Robert C. Byrd High School Clarksburg, West Virginia
1:12 P.M. EDT
MR. KITTLE: Mr. President, it's wonderful to have you here in Clarksburg, West Virginia. We have with us today Secretary Riley, Governor and Mrs. Underwood, former governor Gaston Caperton, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, House Speaker Robert Kiss, Senator Truman Schafer, Secretary of State Ken Hechler, and Treasurer John Perdue. And all of you distinguished guests, it's a pleasure to have all of you with us today.
Members of our congressional delegation planned to be with us today. However, he thought they should be in Washington because they're working on a very important issue, balancing the budget. So I think he's probably had a telephone call or two back to them already, so that's a very important issue.
Good afternoon. I am Robert Kittle, Superintendent of Harrison County Schools. We're extremely proud to welcome President Clinton to Robert C. Byrd High School and to Clarksburg, West Virginia.
I thank you in our audience for joining us today. Participating in this educational town meeting President Clinton called to action for American education in the 21st century provides strong guidelines for our school districts in West Virginia and across the nation. Here in Harrison County we have developed a management plan that emphasizes rigorous standards for teachers and students' accountability, for a challenging curricula, for safe and drug-free schools, for technology in our classrooms, and for efficient facilities. These successes came about because of the dedication and hard work of many, and because of our citizens who give financial support to education and hold education as their highest priority.
As a result, we have an excellent goal-oriented school system that exhibits positive results. We have just learned that Norwood Elementary School has been named a national Blue Ribbon school, and Philip Brown, the principal of that school, is here in the audience today with us. I ask Bill to stand. (Applause.)
I am pleased to have the opportunity to moderate this town meeting. And again, I welcome the President and all of you. I would like now to introduce Mary Helen Shields, a senior at Robert C. Byrd High School. Mary Helen has been an excellent student and active in school, community and church activities throughout high school. She was recently named by the faculty and fellow seniors as Ms. Eagle, the highest honor bestowed on a senior girl. At this time, Mary Helen Shields.
MS. SHIELDS: Mr. President: This is the most exciting moment of my life, and I can't even begin to explain the mixed emotions that I'm feeling right now. It is such an honor and a privilege to be able to stand here beside you in the presence of my family and friends, and welcome you to Robert C. Byrd High School here in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
Speaking for my fellow classmates and for my peers across the state, I want to thank you for your efforts and concerns on education. I am sure that your education Goals 2000 will make us leaders going into the 21st century.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mary Helen. She said she was nervous, but I thought she did a great job, didn't you? Terrific.
Thank you, Bob Kittle, for hosting us here. To Leon Pilewski, the principal, and all the faculty here at Robert Byrd High School. I thank Governor Underwood, Mrs. Underwood, Governor Caperton, the other state officials for being here, the legislative leaders, the local school officials.
The congressional delegation did want to come, but the Senate is voting today on the balanced budget amendment. I'll have a little more to say about that in a minute. But I kind of wish Senator Byrd would have been able to come here, especially to this school, but he and your other legislators have put their duty first, and I respect that and they're where we all want them to be.
I'd like to thank your State Superintendent of Education, Hank Marockie, for being here; and recognize the President of the State Board of Education, Cleo Matthews, who's here because not only is she the President of the State Board of Education, but her daughter, Sylvia, is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President. And that's a nice little walk from Hinton, West Virginia, so I thank them for being here. Cleo, thank you. (Applause.)
I thank Mayor Flynn and others for making me feel so welcome in Clarksburg and all the communities along the way where the people came out to say hello. But mostly I want to thank all of you in this audience for joining me to talk about education, about the plans that you have and the plans that I have to make education better; and especially the importance of high standards, to give our children the knowledge and skills they will need to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of the 21st century.
I came here in part because of the great progress you are making in the national movement to raise academic achievement. In 1996, the state of West Virginia tied for third in the nation in improvement since 1992 in the mathematics performance of 4th and 8th graders. You should be very, very proud of that. (Applause.)
I want to thank Governor Underwood for supporting this educational effort and I want to thank my former colleague, with whom I served for many years, Gaston Caperton, for making education his top priority here in West Virginia, among other things, making West Virginia the nation's leader in putting technology in schools.
I believe you either now have or soon will have computers in every single one of your elementary schools in West Virginia. That is something you can be very proud of -- that, the distance learning work you've done. And I want to tell you all, if you don't know, in addition to being on public broadcasting here in West Virginia and whatever else the networks choose to pick up tonight, we are live on the Internet in West Virginia and across the country. So you're in cyberspace and I hope you're having a good time there. (Applause.)
For the last four years we have worked very hard to advance our goals in education, to make sure all our children are ready to learn; to make sure that they have good basic skills, from expanding Head Start to the Goals 2000 program, which West Virginia has used, to have grass-roots efforts to raise academic performance; to our School-to-Work program, to help the learning of young people who don't go on to colleges but do deserve to have good access to further training after high school; to open the doors of college to all Americans.
The balanced budget agreement that I reached with the leaders of Congress provides for the largest increased investment in education in a generation. If the Senate adopts it -- the House has already adopted it by a better than 75 percent vote -- if the Senate adopts it, that's what it will do. It expands Head Start, moving toward our goal of a million kids in Head Start by 2002. It funds our America Reads program, designed to mobilize a million volunteer reading tutors across America to ensure that every 8-year-old in this country can read independently by the end of the third grade. Very important in a country that is as diverse as ours is becoming.
We have four school districts in America where there are more than 100 different native ethnic linguistic groups. That's a stunning statistic. But everybody has to be able to read in our common language of English, so this is very important.
We also have the largest increased investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill was passed at the end of World War II; a HOPE Scholarship tax credit for families designed to make two years of education after high school as universal as a high school diploma is today; tax deductions for the costs of all tuition after high school and the biggest increase in Pell Grants in 20 years. It will add 300,000 more people who are eligible for the Pell Grant program -- something which will be especially helpful in a state like West Virginia.
In addition to that, we have funding to try to follow your lead to make sure that we can connect every classroom and library in the United States to the Internet by the year 2000. But the most important thing of all in our education program I believe is the effort to develop national standards and a national measure of whether those standards are being met. Because from West Virginia to Nevada, from Washington State to Florida, from Maine to Arizona, math is the same, the need for basic reading skills are the same.
I called in my State of the Union address for national standards of excellence in basic learning. Not federal government standards, but national standards, starting with fourth grade reading and eighth grade math, and reflected in examinations which I would challenge every school, every state, every student to participate in by 1999.
I have proposed that these exams be based on the only widely accepted national standards based test we have today, called the National Assessment of Education Progress. When I just said that West Virginia ranked third in the country in progress and performance in math tests, that is based on your students' performance on the so-called NAEP test, the National Assessment of Education Progress. But today we only give those tests to a sampling of students in states, and we only know what either the state scores are or, in some cases, the district or regional scores are. So we have to do this for the whole nation.
Today I am pleased to announce that Governor Underwood, along with the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Education, has agreed that West Virginia should participate in these examinations in 1999. And I'm grateful to him and you should be proud of it. (Applause.)
In addition, Massachusetts and the National Alliance of Business are endorsing our call for national tests. West Virginia, Massachusetts, the National Alliance of Business join several other states and other groups in the growing national consensus for standards. And I am very, very encouraged.
Let me also say that, you know my native state of Arkansas has a lot in common with West Virginia. In the 1980 census we were the two states with the highest percentage of people living in the states who were born there. And we also have had to struggle with low incomes and an economy that was not easily changeable to meet the demands of the modern world. And I'd like to think that we believe that our children are as gifted as children anywhere, and that if we give them high standards, good teaching and good parental support and good support in the schools they can do as well as students anywhere in the world.
So, again, Governor, thank you. And thank you to all the educators. We're going to do this, and it's important. (Applause.)
Now, before we open the floor to questions, I thought you might be interested in just seeing what these exams are like. So we'll go through a question or two, just so you'll get the feeling for what a 4th grade -- we'll start with the 4th grade reading exam and you'll see why this is important. If you have a standards exam -- it's not like giving an exam in class where somebody might grade on the curve and two people can make an A and everybody else has to make something lower. Standards based exams are designed to assure that everybody can pass, but to pass it means something. It means you know what you need to know. So no one is supposed to fail, and this is not designed to put any school, any student, and group down, but to lift us all up. The tests are designed so that if they don't work out so well the first time, you'll know what to do to teach, to improve and lift these standards.
But it's very important to understand the difference between a standards based test and normal grading, where you expect somebody to make 100 and somebody to make 60 and everybody to be in between. With the idea of standards you want everybody to clear at least the fundamental bar.
So let's look at the charts here. Chart 1 describes the 4th grade reading test and the standard performance is divided into three categories. Basic performance means that a reader can recognize most of the words, identify the most important information. The next level is proficient. In addition to that, you can summarize the passage, find specific information and describe the way it's presented.
Then, an advanced understanding would be that you could provide a more detailed and thoughtful explanation. And I'll give you an example of that by asking one of your students to join me -- Hannah Galey, who is a 4th-grader from Nutter Fort Intermediate, is going to come forward. Hannah is going to read us a passage from Charlotte's Web, a wonderful book I'm sure a lot of the adults here read with your children when they were little.
Hannah? Give her a hand. (Applause.)
HANNAH: "Having promised Wilbur that she would save his life, she was determined to keep her promise. Charlotte was naturally patient. She knew from experience that if she waited long enough, a fly would come to her web. And she felt sure that if she thought long enough about Wilbur's problem, an idea would come to her mind.
Finally, one morning toward the middle of July, the idea came. 'Why, how perfectly simple,' she said to herself. 'The way to save Wilbur's life is to play a trick on Zuckerman. If I can fool a bug,' thought Charlotte, 'I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.'"
THE PRESIDENT: That's wonderful. (Applause.) That's great. Give her a hand. You were great. If we were giving a read score, she would be double advanced, you know. (Laughter.) Thank you.
Now, here's the way the question would work for a 4th grader: Based upon the passage you just read, how would you describe Charlotte to a friend? And then, these are three possible answers, and you see how they would be graded based on what I just said. A basic proficiency would be, Charlotte keeps her promise. That's basic standards. A proficient answer would be, Charlotte works hard to keep her promise, describing that she hasn't kept it yet, she's working to keep it. And then, an advanced understanding would just explain in one sentence what the whole paragraph was about. She plans to keep her promise to save Wilbur's life, what the promise is -- by tricking Zuckerman how she plans to keep it. All three things.
But you can see if you give -- and obviously there are various variations, but the test would be -- the answers would be aggregated in three categories like that. So that you would have some sense of how the children were reading.
Now, let's look at Chart 4, which will show how our 4th graders are doing. Again, this is the national assessment of education progress. This is the reading version of the math test that I just quoted that West Virginia was third in the country in improvement on, given to a representative sample of 4th graders in America; 40 percent did not do as well as saying, "Charlotte keeps her promise" -- could not say that's what this was about.
Now, you know, some of these young people may not have English as a first language, but a lot of them do and still are not reading at an advanced enough level. That is why it is so important that we provide in every community an army of trained reading tutors to help support the parents and support the literacy efforts under way and support the schools.
Thirty percent cleared the first hurdle. This is about Charlotte keeping a promise. Twenty-three percent were more proficient; they knew it was her plan, she was outlining her plan. Only seven percent of the 4th graders went as far as saying, she plans to keep her promise to save the life by tricking the man -- you see?
So it shows you that ideally we would like 100 percent in advance, but at least we need 100 percent at basic or above. And so the idea of giving the exam would be not to be to identify failures, but to show schools and school districts how well children are reading based on what they understand, so that everybody would reach a certain understanding. That way their performance in all subsequent grades would improve. A lot of children have the mental capacity to do very well in school and fall further and further behind because they didn't get the comprehension they needed early on.
Now, I want to show you one other chart, and we'll come back to this at the end of the program. This is a sample 8th grade math test -- so ask yourself this question -- no answer forthcoming now: A car has a fuel tank that holds 15 gallons of fuel. The car consumes five gallons of fuel for every 100 miles. A trip of 250 miles was started with a full tank of fuel. How much fuel remained in the tank at the end of the trip. And there are four answers: 2.5 gallons, 12.5 gallons, 17.5 gallons, five gallons. We'll come back to that at the end of the show. That's designed to hold viewer interest out there. (Laughter.)
So that's basically what these standards tests are designed to do. I wanted to come here and talk about that because West Virginia has not only proved that you can have a big increase in teacher's salaries, which is wonderful; one of the best student-teacher ratios in America, which is wonderful; the most aggressive plan to put computers in elementary schools in the country, which is terrific and helps to reinforce standards learning; but you're also showing that you can raise standards, and today, with the Governor's statement, that you want to do more.
So with that, I'd like to hear from about any of these educational matters you would like to discuss, questions you'd like to ask, statements you'd like to make and we'll go back to our leader here, but Kittle. Thank you.
MR. KITTLE: We're ready now to do the Town Hall meeting, so we're ready to open for questions for the President.
THE PRESIDENT: Here's some over here.
MR. KITTLE: Over here?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, over there. And there's some there.
PRESIDENT HARDESTY: Mr. President, I am David Hardesty, President of West Virginia University, we welcome you.
Adopting national standards involves changing a lot of things in America. It involves a cultural change in many respects, especially if those standards are historically different in school district. I wonder if you would identify the major impediments to the adoption of such a program and how we, as educators and parents and community leaders, can help you address this important initiative.
THE PRESIDENT: I think there are two major barriers from what I've heard. The first is a political one, the second one is a deeply personal one, almost.
The political one is sometimes when people say "national standards" -- and Secretary Riley and I have to deal with this all across America -- when people say "national standards," they say, I don't want the federal government setting standards for my school. That is not what this is about. All the federal government proposes to do is to fund the development of the tests to measure whether the standards are being met.
The National Assessment of Education Progress tests, which you participate in, was developed by educators, academics and other experts. The federal government is not running this test. We are not telling you that you have to participate in it. The whole thing is voluntary. But I believe every state will want to be a part of it when it is obviously a process that has integrity that will help our children.
So the first thing is we have to tell people, this is not some attempt of the federal government to take over your schools. We have done a lot in our administration to get rid of a lot of the federal rules and regulations associated with grant programs, to try to give local school districts more flexibility as long as they were developing academic standards that they could hold themselves accountable for. That's the first thing.
The second thing -- big problem, I think, is it's scary, it's personal. You're afraid -- what happens if you take it and you don't do very well. And I think the important thing there is that we are not -- we want all of our children to take it, but we're not necessarily trying to identify the specific score of every student, but we want the schools and the classes to see how they're doing so they can lift the students up. I don't want anybody's score published in the paper or anything like that. This is not an instrument of failure, it's an instrument of accountability and a pathway to success.
But I can tell you, when you look at other countries with which we're competing for the high-wage jobs of tomorrow -- huge issue in West Virginia -- now, for years -- I was looking at the topography of West Virginia, which looks like about half of Arkansas -- all of these mountains and how beautiful it is. For years, it made it hard for you to diversify your economy. You had coal in the ground, but it was hard for people to get here and do other things, and it slowed up the diversification of your economy and kept your wage levels too low.
The explosion of technology will mean that many kinds of work can be done anywhere in America and anywhere in the world. And it both gives you an enormous new opportunity, but a much higher responsibility to lift your education level. So we've got to get people over the idea that they have to be scared of how this thing comes out.
No matter how bad it is, once you get a road map it will be better next year and it will be better the year after that. And all the evidence is that children do better with higher expectations. To me, those are the two things. If you can confront those two things head on, go out here and tell the citizens of West Virginia the government is not trying to run a testing program and take over your schools, number one; and number two, don't be scared of how it comes out because it's going to make us better in the long run.
MR. KITTLE: Okay. Time for the next question. Let's take one from this group over here.
MR. MACE: Frank Mace -- Mr. President, the federal government does an excellent job of funding positions for reading specialists in schools where there is high concentration of poverty. My question: With the new educational standards, will we see increased funding so that we can have reading specialists in all elementary schools so that we can achieve your standard of having children read by the time they get to 3rd grade?
THE PRESIDENT: What's the answer to that, Secretary Riley? Yes? Secretary, just tell him what you just said. (Laughter.) This is something I'm very proud of. I'll give you the intro. In addition to the million volunteers we're going to try to get to support you, those of you who do this at a higher level of skill on a full-time basis, we are also going to provide -- that's what he was about to say.
SECRETARY RILEY: The America Reads Challenge, which is the President's proposal to have all children read well and independently by the end of the 3rd grade, calls for funding from the federal government; people chosen, of course, and connected with your local schools, chosen by your schools, who would be reading specialists to work with one million volunteers who then would work one on one for kids who need special help working with the teacher to make sure they can read well. So the answer is yes, many times over.
THE PRESIDENT: Twenty-five thousand extra reading specialists, so that should put one in every school. (Applause.) Now, let me ask you something. You say you're a reading recovery teacher, and have you had great results with it? You know, the reading recovery program revolutionized literacy in the whole nation of New Zealand --
SECRETARY RILEY: Absolutely.
THE PRESIDENT: -- and is probably the most consistently effective reading program that any of us know about. It's more intensive and it's more expensive, and what we're trying to do is to create a network where, in effect, people like you can be at the center of a hub that reaches out that includes reading specialists and all the volunteers so we'll have enough hopefully to cover what every child needs.
MR. KITTLE: Mr. President, before you continue, I'd like you to hear from a reading teacher that we have with us today. Mr. President, we have with us Donna Rose in our audience, a reading teacher who teaches in an exemplary school, Lost Creek Elementary School. She would like to comment on the Title I program.
MS. ROSE: Mr. President, when you showed us the reading question from Charlotte's Web, I realized what we do as teachers every day in the primary grades makes the difference in a child's life and the child's education. I know that the work that we do at our school at Lost Creek will help our students to be able to answer this type of question by grade 4.
I'd like to tell you a little bit what we do at Lost Creek Elementary School. We work hard; we use some well-known strategies such as reading recovery, which is a one-on-one early intervention program. We teach through thematic programs and writing activities.
Our program also includes our parents in activities with their children. For example, yesterday at our school, parents were given information on reading, along with playing Bingo for books. Students and their parents received free books. Parent involvement is very important in the education of our children. We have set high standards for our students and our parents. We have found great success in our reading program.
Our standardized test scores at our school over the last five years have steadily improved. One of the reasons that our school has been able to have a successful reading program is because of the Title I funding and the flexibility that it's allowed us. We would like to thank you for your support in the Title I program. But I would also like to ask what other type of programs you are supporting that would help our schools in the future.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, first of all I thank you for what you are doing because I think it's very important. It's the most important thing, especially with the parents being involved. One of the things that we have done that I'm most proud of is the way we redid the Title I program, because when we got here, Secretary Riley and I got here and we had been governors living with the Title I program for years, we thought it was really selling our lower-income children in our poorer school districts short, basically creating a two-tiered system of education. And instead, we tried to organize it so that you grass-roots teachers could use it to lift the performance level of children who were covered by Title I, and I think that's what you've done, and I'm very thrilled by it.
Now, what we're trying to do now in addition to what we've just been talking about on the standards, first we want to increase the availability of pre-school education so that more kids will come to school prepared to learn. Secondly, we want to try to do what we can to support the literacy programs in the schools; we explained that.
And then we've taken the basic education programs that we have on the books now in this balanced budget plan and tried to continue or dramatically increase the funding of as many of them as we could. We are particularly interested in trying to help enhance math and science education and, as I said earlier, trying to accelerate the movement of computers and connection to the Internet and good educational software and trained teachers in every classroom in America, and that's a big part of this program.
So I hope that all those things together will make a significant difference when we finish this work over the next four to five years.
MR. KITTLE: Let's take a question from one of the students now.
THE PRESIDENT: You've got a bunch of them. Your choice.
MR. KITTLE: Let's take the one here on the front row on the left.
THE PRESIDENT: Sure. We'll take both of them. Go ahead.
JENNIFER: Mr. President, my name is Jennifer Brown and I am a 5th grade student at Simpson Elementary School. I am frequently involved in the arts, music and theatre programs that my school and the Harrison County Board of Education sponsors; but recently the fundings for these programs has been cut. I was wondering what plans you have, if any, to make sure that the arts aren't completely cut out of the school curriculum. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Wonderful. Well, first of all, let me say that historically the main support for arts and education out in the country from the national government has come through programs like the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities -- because most of the big money coming from the national government to the schools has come to schools that have basically low taxes bases, low income, or to students with special needs. And the idea was that if the federal government dealt with -- gave extra money to poor schools or gave extra money to students with special needs because their costs were higher, then the states and the localities would be able to keep up the rest of the programs.
There has been an alarming decline all over America in the arts and music programs and, I might say, in the athletic programs, apart from the big school teams. And I think it's a serious mistake, because we now know that a lot of young people develop their intellectual capacities in different ways, different kids learn in different ways, and that we really are significantly eroding the future of our -- certain segments of our children if we deprive them of access to the arts and music and, even if they're not varsity football or basketball players or baseball players, to other sports.
But we don't -- except through the National Endowment for the Arts, we've done some things that benefit public schools -- we don't have direct programs to do that because we spend all our money on other things. But I must say, I personally believe it's a mistake for schools to cut back on it. And when I was a governor I tried to dedicate enough funding to these purposes, to try to offset it -- even though usually the decisions about the curriculum are made completely at the local level. I think that may be the problem, that all schools form time to time have financial problems. And it may be that because there's not a specific funding stream for a lot of these programs they're more likely to be left undefended.
I think the best way to keep them is for you and students like you to point out that you think it's an important part of your education.
Q Mr. President, my name is Ashby Hardesty and I'm a 5th grader from Nutter Fort Elementary School. I was wondering if you use the Internet in the White House.
THE PRESIDENT: We do.
SECRETARY RILEY: All right. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But my daughter uses it more than I do. (Laughter.) We access the Internet in the White House and we also have extensive e-mail, but my speechwriters use the Internet. They can do research on the Internet, they pull up articles and things. We use the Internet for all kinds of things.
When I become curious, I can always go down to the Vice President's office, because he's a bigger expert than I am, and we'll have -- we have interesting environmental discussions based on things he pulls up for me on the Internet. But the White House uses the Internet quite a lot.
MR. KITTLE: Okay, let's hear from one of the parents over in this section.
Q Mr. President, welcome to West Virginia.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q My name is Jim McCallum. I'm a member of the West Virginia Board of Education. I'd like to divert just a little bit from the theme at hand but stay within the educational realm and ask you what your opinions are as to the extending of the school year here in the States in light of the fact that the students in Japan and most of the European countries go to school 20, 30, 40 or even more days per year than our students.
THE PRESIDENT: I have always thought if you could afford it, it was a good thing to do. I think that the only major industrial country with a shorter school year than we have that I'm aware of is Belgium, and I'm not quite sure what the historic reasons for it are. But Belgium does have a shorter school year than we do. Every other nation in the world with an advanced economy has a longer school year.
And as you know, basically the American school year was developed around an agricultural society when all of the children had to get off and help their folks in the fields. A lot of our more overcrowded school districts now are now open year-round. They just operate on three trimesters, and the students have to go to two of three trimesters. And obviously that reduces by a third the amount of new school construction they have to do, although it costs more, obviously, to operate the schools and pay the personnel.
I think on balance it's a good thing to do. I think that -- let me just say what we're learning already from the NAEP tests and other things in math. What we're learning in mathematics, for example, in the higher years is that our students may skip over a large number of subjects and touch a large number of subjects -- for example, in advance mathematics, but our competitors in East Asia and in Germany, for example, may study slightly fewer subjects, because they're in school longer, they go into much greater depth, which means when they get out of high school, they carry a higher level of capacity with them.
So if you are going to lengthen the school year, I would say the first thing you ought to do is bring educators and others in and say, well, if we went to school longer, what would we do with the time. I mean, you don't want the kids to get bored.
In a lot of states like our home state, every time we talked about lengthening the school year, they would tell me about how many schools weren't properly air-conditioned, and we would have the teachers and the kids passing out and all that kind of stuff.
It's very unpopular, lengthening the school year, but I was always for it. I just think you need to analyze -- and I think you get more support if you say, here is what we would do if we went to school a week longer, here is what we would do with that time if we went to school two weeks longer, here is what we would do with that time. And then, of course, you have to figure out how you're going to pay for it and what kind of offset you get with questions like the young lady asked here about already having cutbacks in other things. On balance, I think it would be better if we had a slightly longer school year, I do.
MR. KITTLE: Okay, let's move over to Senator Sharpe.
SENATOR SHARPE: I'm Bill Sharpe, Western West Virginia. President Pro Temp of the West Virginia Senate. And first of all, I'd like to thank you for coming to West Virginia. And I'd say you're doing a beautiful job. More or less, I'd like to point out and congratulate you on the basis of grading. I notice back -- you said you used to do it on a curve, and in engineering school we did a lot of that on the curve, and you pointed out early that you're getting back to the three Responsible, the reading and the arithmetic, but you don't say anything about writing. I think somewhere along the line, you might have some ideas on writing.
I know back in engineering school when they were grading on a curve, sometimes the difference between an E and F for Bill Sharpe was the fact that whether he wrote his name properly and in the right manner. So I would like for you to elaborate on that if you would be so kind.
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, let me say I do not -- if I were in a different line of work -- for example, if I were the Superintendent of Schools here like Mr. Kittle, or if I were the state superintendent of public education, I would not say that we should only have high standards in reading for 4th graders and math for 8th graders. It's just that this is the --we have to make a beginning somewhere as a nation, so I'm trying to get us to make a beginning as a nation with this in 1999.
I would have -- we already have an enormous amount of work that's been done, for example, by the science teachers to have national standards in science. And National Geographic has spent a fortune to work with geography teachers to develop national standards in geography and teaching materials for it. And there are national standards in civics, and there should be standards in reading and language generally that go from the 4th grade to the 8th grade. And there ought to be -- and one in high school, perhaps 10th grade. And in my dream world, before too long we would have this 4th grade reading test and this 8th grade test replicated in elementary, junior high and high school in several areas, and then all the schools in the country could pick and choose about what they would participate in.
Obviously, if you went to the 8th grade, and certainly in the high school, you would want a writing sample as well. I'm interested in -- more and more of the college application forms you see a lot of you -- I'm sort of into this now, as a lot of you know -- (laughter) -- are requiring young people to write an essay to get into college. And I think it's a very good thing. So I would agree that writing and the measurement of writing capacity should be a very important part of a national standards program once you move beyond the 4th grade into junior high and then into high school. It's very important that young people be able to express themselves.
MR. KITTLE: Let's move back to this side.
THE PRESIDENT: What were you going to say? Secretary Riley wants to say something. Talk to him about our summer program, Dick.
SECRETARY RILEY: I think it's important for us to tell the people in West Virginia about our program, Read, Write Now, which is a summer program to encourage young people to read and write every day in the summer, only 30 minutes, with a reading partner at least one day a week; for them to get a library card of their own. The reading partner -- of course, the partner could be a parent or an older brother or sister or a friend or a member of the Rotary Club or whatever.
But we think that it is so important for young people over the summer months -- especially disadvantaged young people who probably don't have books and magazines around their house -- not to have that gap in the summer. Because those who slip in the summer in reading and writing never seem to get caught up. And we think that's very important, to get those kids -- 1-800-USA-LEARN, call that number and we can send them to you, for your classroom. And it is free and it has all the instructions simply written by very professional educators.
We had over a million last year and we'll have over a million and a half this year. At the end of the summer the reading partner signs a certificate that the kid did -- that they did this every week and they get a free pizza from Pizza Hut.
MR. KITTLE: Let's move on to the back row.
THE PRESIDENT: While she's taking the microphone back there, Senator, let me say one other thing.
SENATOR SHARPE: You have the floor, sir. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: There is a lot -- and you probably know this -- there is a lot of educational research that shows just as some young people learn better when they're exposed to music and the arts, there are some young people whose learning increases exponentially even if they're not particularly literate at the time when they begin to write, and they begin to write stories of their own life and stories of how they want to -- so it triggers their imagination in a way that nothing else quite can. So I think it's very important that this be taught even before it's tested.
MR. ESCHENMANN: Mr. President, my name is Jim Eschenmann -- I'm a proud parent of a four-year-old preschooler.
Your administration, as well as the local board of education, has placed a large emphasis on connecting every classroom to the Internet. What additional measures can we take to protect our school students from the harmful areas of the Internet while guaranteeing full access to post secondary students and to protect the freedom of speech?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I signed a bill -- when I signed the telecommunications bill, which I believe will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country along with the agreement we've made to open telecommunication competition in the world to American products and services -- I had a provision in there to try to protect against young people being exposed to some of the harmful things that are on the Internet. Not just pornography but, as I'm sure a lot of you know because of the events in the news in the last couple of years, there are even instructions on how to build bombs and things like that. There are lot of things on there that we wouldn't want our children to see.
That provision has been thrown out by a court and is still in the courts, I think. So it may be that what we have to do is try to develop something like the equivalent of what we're developing for you for television, like the V-chip, where it's put in the hands of the parents or the educators. And then if it were in the hands of the educators the school board could approve certain guidelines.
It's technically more difficult with the Internet. As you know, there are hundreds of new services being added to the Internet every week. It's growing at an explosive capacity and we're in the process actually of trying to develop an Internet II. But I think that is the answer. Something like the V-chip for televisions. And we're working on it. I think it's a serious potential problem myself.
But let me say it would be a serious potential problem if they were not in the schools. I think putting them in the schools, because the kids are normally under supervision, you have a far less likelihood that the Internet will be abused or that the children will be exposed to something they shouldn't see during the school hours, in all likelihood, than at home. But I do think you need guidelines in both places and we're doing our best to try to figure out if there's some technological fix we can give you on it.
MR. KITTLE: Mr. President, before we continue, I'd like for you to hear from one of our students here in the audience. Mr. President, we have Jeremy Thompson, a National Merit finalist from Bridgeport High School, who would like to comment on how the high standards and a good education has helped him through school.
JEREMY: Mr. President, I think that there's been many factors that have contributed to my success. One of them would have to be the structure of my education. I had a strong background in reading and basic math in elementary school, which has allowed me to focus on more difficult subjects in high school.
Another thing is teacher enthusiasm. I feel very fortunate to have had even a half dozen really enthusiastic teachers who have inspired me to learn all I can about their subjects. I think students aren't inspired to learn when teachers aren't excited to teach. But in Harrison County, through the exposure to technology and through the strong teaching, I'm prepared to compete against students from anywhere in the nation.
I'd like to ask you if you feel that in addition to the standardized tests in 4th and 8th grades, do you think it would be appropriate for students to have to pass a national exam to graduate from high school and, if so, what would be the minimum levels in english, math and science?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, New York, for many years, has had a Regents exam that you actually had to pass to get a full-fledged high school diploma. And I believe that Louisiana several years ago adopted an 11th grade exam that you had to pass to go into high school. When I was governor of our state we passed a requirement that you had to pass an exam in the 8th grade to be promoted to high school.
I basically believe that it would be a good thing if you had a standard -- an exam like this -- not one you have to make a certain score on, but one you have to show certain competence on -- to move to different levels of education. If one were being given in high school I would like to see it be given in the 11th grade so it could be given again in the summer so young people can go on to their senior year. Or if it were a condition of a diploma, it should be given very early so it can be taken at least twice more. Because if you give an exam that you have to make a certain score on or show certain competencies on to get a diploma after you've been put through 11 years of school, I think you ought to be given more than one shot .
But I think that generally, if we can move to standard based education so that every young person in America can stand up and make the statement about their early education that you just made, then it would be a good thing to have certain benchmarks along the way so you would make sure that if you were sending somebody to that next level, they really could do the work.
Otherwise, you can really, I think, hurt a lot of young people. There are so many young people -- there's lots of evidence that a lot of young people have difficulty in high school years because they never got the basic skills they needed in the early years, and they get sort of typed as being inadequate as if they don't have the intellectual capacity to do it. And the truth is that way over 90 percent of us can do way over 90 percent of what we need to do in any given field of endeavor, given a proper level of preparation, the proper level of support and a proper level of effort. So I would like to see something like that, but if you did it in the high school before graduation, I think we would have to start it early and give everybody more than one chance to pass.
MR. KITTLE: Let's move over to this section. President Esbhbach?
DR. ESBHBACH: Mr. President, I'm Janet Dudley Esbhbach, President of Fairmont State College in Fairmont, West Virginia with a branch here in Clarksburg. We are very excited about the America Reads Challenge program and want to be involved. However, it presents a little bit of a problem for some college presidents to devote 50 percent of their work-study dollars to this program. We want to participate; we have said we would participate. But would you be open to the idea that there might be other mechanisms in which we could participate or by which we could participate?
For example, we have a very successful community service learning program through which our students volunteer and earn college credit. It would seem to me that we could perhaps -- and this is as much to the Secretary as to yourself -- perhaps in that same way through volunteerism and college credit, participate and achieve the same ends that you are seeking through America Reads.
THE PRESIDENT: Number one, absolutely. And secondly, let me make it clear what we asked to be done with work-study. We have not asked anybody to devote half of their work-study students to America Reads. What we did do is to say last year we increased the number of work-study students by 100,000 over the next couple of years in our budget last year by 200,000 -- excuse me.
In my new budget, we put another 100,000 in there so that within a matter of three years we'll go from -- nationwide from 700,000 work-study students total to one million. What we really were shooting for is to get 100,000 of the next 300,000 into reading tutoring. We were urging the colleges, if they could, to, in effect, give up that number of hours of students working on campus to work in reading.
So we're not trying to get anybody to give up half their Work Study students. And so you could more easily calibrate kind of what your share was if you wanted to participate, but there is not mandate on that.
Secondly, I would love it if you did it that way, because another thing I'm trying to do what we emphasized at the Summit of Service in Philadelphia with the former Presidents and General Powell and I sponsored at the Volunteer Summit is that I hope that every college in America will start giving a credit for community service and we'll try to channel all of its students into community service. So if you did it that way, I would be elated.
You just have to make sure -- let me just say, you just have to make sure, and I'm sure our reading teacher over here would say that you just have to make sure that you've got enough time to give the minimal training to do what needs to be done, and that in this -- whatever you have to do to get the credit. They'll be spending enough time with one student or two students or however many to really do the kids some good that they're helping.
But I would love that, because I think every -- I'd like to see every college in America follow your lead and give students credit for doing community service.
MR. KITTLE: Let's move over to this section over here. All right. The lady in the blue.
MS. SCHAEFFER: Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Patricia Schaeffer and I am the parent of a 4th grade child at Morgantown. My question to you is that in regards to technology. West Virginia, as you pointed out, has shared leadership along with the federal government in providing technology to our students. The question we have is, how do we ensure that technology will be accessible, given the substantial costs involved, to all of our children, especially the children in the rural areas, something that we face a lot here in West Virginia, so that all children will have the opportunity for a quality education using technology, such as we have here at Robert C. Byrd High School?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can tell you what we're doing. What we are doing is to -- let me get my brace out of the way here -- let me tell you what we're doing. We have provided some money in each of the next five years in our budget to go to states to try to put with help we get from the private sector and any money that the states want to put in to try to make sure that all the schools get covered.
Frankly, the principal beneficiaries of this should be the most rural schools and the poorest inner-city schools, because of a lot of the other schools are going to get computers just in the normal course of events. And the whole program will be a failure if we don't hook it up to all the rural schools.
When we started this, when the Vice President and I started this, we went out to California a couple of years ago and hooked up 20 percent of the classrooms in California in one day. And we got all those high-tech companies in Silicon Valley to do that. And then we went to New Jersey and highlighted what they had done there to turn around a district that was in trouble.
My whole idea was that this would make it possible if we did it right for the first time in the history of the country for kids in the poorest urban districts and the most remote rural districts to have access to the same information in the same way in the same time as the students in the wealthiest public and private schools in America.
I mean, if we do this right, it could revolutionize access to learning. So I think you've got to get the computers out there, but secondly, we have to make sure the teachers are trained and, third, we have to make sure that the software is good.
So the answer to your question is, my goal is going to be to see that every state is going to have to have a plan and that's how we put the money out. Go ahead.
SECRETARY RILEY: Mr. President, let me add also that we in the administration strongly supported the Federal Communications Commission in their recent use of the telecommunication proviso that said they could charge a separate rate for classroom teaching and for libraries. And we urged upon them the so-called "E rate." It was passed here recently. It could mean --it will mean to education in general in terms of exactly what you're talking about -- some $2.25 billion a year. And it's a major thing for education and for poor schools in very poor districts to have the Internet access and use of technology will be up to 90 percent discounted. The average will be around 60 percent, but that's going to be a tremendous benefit for that program.
THE PRESIDENT: You understand what he's talking about? The poorest schools can have -- we'll make it as close to free as we can to hook on to the Internet, which will make a big difference, because a lot of our schools were worried about getting the equipment and the software and everything else and just not being able to afford to stay hooked up. But the E-rate that the Federal Communications Commission approved will be a 90-percent discount for the poorest schools in the country and an average 60 percent discount. So that should mean that everybody out in the hills and hollows of North Arkansas and West Virginia should be able to afford to keep wired up.
MR. KITTLE: Great. Let's take the lady on the front row.
MS. PRICE: My name is Pina Price and I have my own business in tax preparation and I'm also an auditor for worker's comp, West Virginia. I heard you on TV mentioning more than once that you were trying to make it more affordable for the children to go to college by giving the parents a tax break in deducting the tuition.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
MS. PRICE: Well, I'd like to know if it's going to happen, and also I would like to know if -- have you ever given any thought of giving the newly graduate a tax break that have enormous student loans to pay back before your law comes into effect?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer to your question is, yes, it is going to happen. And the only question is, we haven't actually passed the actual tax bill through the Congress yet, but we have allocated roughly $35 billion over a five-year period to provide tax relief against the cost of college education.
And we know that, among other things, there will be a tax credit -- that is a dollar-for-dollar reduction off your taxes; for the first two years of college for an amount that will be roughly equal to the cost of a typical community college. So you can take that as just off your taxes as a tax credit. Because our goal is to try to make two years of education after high school as universal as a high school diploma is today.
If you look at the last census figures we have in 1990 show that young people who have two years of -- younger workers, now, it's not the same for older workers -- but younger workers who have two years of education or more after high school tend to get jobs with rising incomes. Young people who have less than two years of education after high school tend to get jobs with stagnant incomes. Young kids who are high school drop-outs tend to get jobs with declining incomes. So it would be a tax credit.
In addition to that, there will be a tax deduction from your taxable income for the cost of any tuition after high school -- not just the first two years, any tuition -- the second two years, post-graduate, vocational, any tuition after high school.
Now, beyond that, what we tried to do to help young people when they come out is for the schools that are in the Department of Education's direct college loan program, young people have the option of choosing to pay back their loans -- they have big loans -- either on a regular repayment schedule, which would be hard for them, particularly if they have become school teachers or police officers or nurses or something else where they're not making a lot of money.
They have the option of paying that back as a percentage of their income, which lifts a huge burden off of them in the early years. So we've tried to do that. But the main focus of our efforts in this tax bill will be the tax credit and the tax deduction. But the details of it are still somewhat open because, obviously, Congress hasn't acted. And Secretary Riley and I talked about it on the way up here today, what we could do that would do the most good for the largest number of people.
MS. FOLIO: Hello, I'm Katherine Folio and I'm the proud parent of a 7th grader. And my question to you is what are you going to do with the gifted programs under your new educational program?
THE PRESIDENT: Support them. You want to talk any more about that, Secretary Riley? Support them. I think they should be supported.
SECRETARY RILEY: Of course, the whole standards process is pulling kids towards the same way that gifted kids are taught now, really high standards, challenging assessment, engaging education to lift the level of learning.
One of the important parts of gifted education is the advanced placement program, which really, for high school kids -- and your son or daughter will be getting on up there soon -- is to take advanced placement courses and really get college credit. It's a money saving thing, too. In our current budget we've got $6 million, as I recall, to really for the first time get a significant effort out to help with advanced placement. And we support local schools in their gifted and talented efforts.
THE PRESIDENT: The more factually accurate answer to your question is the one Secretary Riley gave. Just about all we do for gifted education is to support advanced placement, and we're going to promote more of that. But, philosophically, I strongly support it. I do believe -- and let me say when I was governor of my state we actually put it into our academic standards that every district had to offer special opportunities for gifted students. And we actually had a funding stream in our education formula for it. So I'm strongly committed to it.
But I think the larger problem in American education is that we've given up on too many of the other students. Because I believe -- I'll say again, I believe more than 90 percent of the students are capable of learning way over 90 percent of what they need to know to keep this country in the forefront of the world and keep their opportunities the richest in the world in the 21st century. And that what we really need to focus on, is lifting our sights so that everybody can stand up and make the speech this young man did when they get out of high school.
I do strongly support gifted programs, but I think as a nation what we need to do is to say the school districts and the states should fund those gifted programs. we should support nationally advanced placement, but the main thing we ought to do is be lifting the sights of all of our children.
MR. KITTLE: Okay, I'll take Jim Archer next.
MR. ARCHER: Mr. President, my name is Jim Archer, I'm a production manager at Northrup Grumman. I guess I'm here because of not only my personal commitment to partnerships in education, but also the companies and the communities commitment to partnerships in education. A wise man once said that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. And I heard a wiser man say if you feed the horse salt, the horse will look for water. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: That's pretty good.
MR. ARCHER: And I wanted to say that it's the challenge of the community to really be that salt for our young people. Our student said it so well, that it was a few teachers that enlightened him to go on and to become. And it's the responsibility of the whole community to do that.
I had an interesting experience lately. In our partnership we developed a full aviation power plant licensed program in high school in the United Technical Center. And whereby a student, upon graduation from high school, would be a licensed power plant mechanic. Recently, we've had opportunities for jobs at work. So I called the guidance counselor and told him I would like to pursue hiring a young man or a young woman from that program. He called me back somewhat disappointed because out of the 14 students who passed that exam, there was no one who really wanted a job application. They were all going on to higher education.
Mr. President, there's a question. There's a stigma about vocational education and technical education and I believe there's a fear within parents and within teachers and within the community that perhaps business people and industrial people being involved in education might be self-serving. How can we best break down those walls?
THE PRESIDENT: The first thing we should be doing, in my opinion, is asserting that the dividing line between vocational education and academic education in the world of the future is an artificial dividing line. If anybody doubts that, they ought to just take a random tour of factories in America today and see how many factory workers there are running very complex machines with computer programs, and a thousand other examples that you well know.
I can only tell you what we have tried to do and what I think we should do. The reason I pushed the development of this school-to-work program when I became President is that I had seen the same sort of thing you were talking about, on the one hand, and on the other hand, I had seen young people who were in vocational programs very often not getting the level of vocational training they needed because it's much more sophisticated now.
So what we decided we ought to do is to bring the business community, in effect, into the schools and bring the students into the businesses, and let young people make up their minds and let young people who chose, in effect, a kind of vocational option to do it in a way that they would know was not closing future doors. If they decided they wanted to go to a four-year college later on or they decided they wanted to pursue a different career later on, they could do it.
That's the whole idea of school-to-work, is to set up a partnership between the employers in the community and the schools so that the idea of working and learning are -- these ideas are compatible, not two different things. And so that if young people decide they want to go into the workplace, they will have an adequate amount of training to be worth enough to you so that you will give them a decent income and they can earn more as they go along, and they're not foreclosing the option of taking a different path if, after a few years, they want to go back and go to school.
I think that a lot of the things that I have to do involve, well, do we have the right program, you know, do we have the right kind of incentives to go to college. Well, a lot of it is just making sure we're thinking right about this because most of the decisions made every day by Americans are not made by anybody in government, they're made by all the rest of you. So it's the way we think about these problems very often that determines whether we accomplish them.
And if you look at the level of work being done at Northrop-Grumman and any number of other companies today, it is a very foolish and outdated idea to have this old-fashioned dividing line between this is academic and respectable, and this is vocational and not quite as good. We need to abolish the line, and that's what our School-to-Work program has tried to do.
MR. KITTLE: Mr. President, in closing, would you like to go back to that sample math question, give us the answer, and explain how the United States students are compared to students in other countries?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that means we're out of time. (Laughter.)
Let me tell you what we always do at these town meetings. I love these. I have not done one in a couple years, but if any of you have questions that you would like to have answered, if you will provide them to the superintendent here, he'll load them all up, send them to me, and I'll write you back, because I think if you come here with a question, you're entitled to get an answer. I wish we had more time.
But let's do the question, let's go back to this. Here's the 8th grade question, okay. If the car has a fuel tank that holds 15 gallons, and it uses 5 gallons every 100 miles, and it goes 250 miles, obviously it uses 12.5 gallons of fuel and there is 2.5 gallons left, and that was question A.
But here is the stunning thing. Let's look at the results. Let's go to the next slide. Only 34 percent of American 8th graders got that question right. Fifty percent of Korean 8th graders got it right. Seventy percent of 8th graders in Singapore got it right. So if you lengthen the school year, maybe you should work on specific math skills.
This has nothing to do with IQ. Nearly 100 percent of all the brains in the world will process this problem. Do not worry about whether we can do this. This is not an issue of whether we can achieve this level of excellence. We can easily do this. We just haven't.
And when we deprive our children of the capacity to do this, then there are all kinds of other processes that they can't absorb and it blunts their capacity to learn later. So I want to see that number up at about 90, and the only way to do it is to try and to test it. And we can do it.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 2:25 P.M. EDT