THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
October 28, 1997
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION
SUBJECT: Turning Around Low-Performing Public Schools
Since taking office in 1993, and with your strong leadership, my Administration has pursued a comprehensive effort to strengthen public schools. We have worked to raise academic standards, promote accountability, and provide greater competition and choice within the public schools, including support for a dramatic increase in charter schools. Moreover, we have worked to make the investments necessary to improve teaching and learning in classrooms across America, through efforts to keep our schools safe and free of drugs; to provide students who need it extra help to master the basics; to increase parental and community involvement; to recruit, prepare, and provide continuing training to teachers and reward excellence in teaching; and to make sure every school has access to and can effectively use 21st century technology.
This strategy is starting to produce results. We know that all students can learn to high standards, and that every school can succeed if it has clear instructional goals and high expectations for all of its students; if it creates a safe, disciplined and orderly environment for learning; helps parents be involved in their children's education; and uses proven instructional practices. All schools must be given the resources, tools, and flexibility to help every student reach high standards.
Yet, no school improvement strategy can succeed without real accountability for results, as measured by student achievement. Excellent schools and schools that show significant improvement must be recognized and rewarded. At the same time, schools that demonstrate persistently poor academic performance -- schools that fail to make adequate progress in educating all students to high standards -- must be held accountable. No American child deserves to get a second-class education. Instead, State and local education officials must step in and redesign failing schools, or close them down and reopen them with new, more effective leadership and staff.
A growing number of cities and States have begun to take these steps. Cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York, and States such as Maryland and Kentucky identify low-performing schools and take steps to intervene if these schools fail to make progress. These steps often include the implementation of school improvement plans -- providing after-school academic help to students, strengthening training and assistance for school staff, creating smaller and more personal settings, such as schools-within-schools -- and, where necessary, reconstitution of the school and replacement of the school principal and other staff.
We must encourage and help more cities and States to take up the challenge of turning around low-performing schools and helping the students they serve get back on the path to achievement. We can do this by making widely available information on what works and what doesn't, and by ensuring that Department of Education resources are most productively used for these purposes.
In order to accomplish this, I am directing the Department of Education to take the following actions within 90 days:
Together, these initiatives can help local school districts turn failing schools into successful schools by improving teacher training, strengthening instructional practices, overhauling school management, and implementing schoolwide reforms. They can provide students who need it with extra help, during and after school hours. And they can provide students with additional choices within the public schools.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
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