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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 26, 1998
                       EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY ZONES: 

January 26, 1998

I challenge every school district to adopt high standards, to abolish social promotion, to move aggressively to help all students make the grade through tutoring, and summer schools, and to hold schools accountable for results, giving them the tools and the leadership and the parental involvement to do the job.

HELPING RAISE ACHIEVEMENT FOR STUDENTS IN HIGH POVERTY COMMUNITIES. President Clinton's Education Opportunity Zones initiative will strengthen public schools and help students master the basics where the need is the greatest: in high poverty urban and rural communities where low expectations, too many poorly prepared teachers, and overwhelmed school systems create significant barriers to high achievement. The Education Department will select approximately 50 high poverty urban and rural school districts that agree to: (1) use high standards and tests of student achievement to identify and provide help to students, teachers and schools who need it; (2) prevent students from falling behind by ensuring quality teaching, challenging curricula, and extended learning time; and (3) end social promotion and turn around failing schools. Added investments in these communities will accelerate their progress and provide successful models of system-wide, standards-based reform for the nation. The President's initiative will invest $200 million in FY99, and $1.5 billion over 5 years, to raise achievement and share lessons learned with school districts around the country.

ENDING SOCIAL PROMOTION, AND GIVING SCHOOLS THE TOOLS TO HELP EVERY CHILD MEET HIGH EXPECTATIONS. To be selected as Education Opportunity Zones, school districts will have to demonstrate that they are using their existing funds effectively to raise student achievement by: holding schools accountable for helping students reach high academic standards, including rewarding schools that succeed and intervening in schools that fail to make progress; holding teachers and principals accountable for quality, including rewarding outstanding teachers, providing help to teachers who need it, and fairly and quickly removing ineffective teachers; ensuring students don't fall behind, by providing a rich curriculum, good teaching and extended learning opportunities; ending social promotions and requiring students to meet academic standards at key transition points in their academic careers; and providing students and parents with school report cards and expanded choice within public education.

EXTRA RESOURCES TO IMPROVE TEACHING, LEARNING, AND LEADERSHIP. School districts will use Education Opportunity Zone funds to support standards-based, district-wide reforms such as: rewarding schools that make significant gains in student achievement; turning around failing schools by implementing proven reform models, or closing them down and reconstituting them; providing extra help to students who need it to meet challenging standards, through after-school, Saturday, and/or summer school programs; building stronger partnerships between schools and parents, businesses, and communities; implementing sound management practices and accountability systems; providing intensive professional development to teachers and principals; helping outstanding teachers earn master teacher certification from the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards and giving them bonuses when they do; and implementing programs to identify low performing teachers, assist them to improve, and remove them if they fail to do so.

COMPETITIVE GRANTS TO SUPPORT PROMISING MODELS. Districts will be selected as Education Opportunity Zones under a competitive, peer-review process. A mix of large and smaller urban areas will be selected to participate, as well as rural school districts and consortia. Each urban Education Opportunity Zone will receive a 3-year grant of $10-25 million per year (depending upon size and proposed activities), and each rural Zone will receive from $250,000 to $3 million (for consortia). Zones will be selected in two rounds, the first in FY 1999, and the second in FY 2001. Successful applicants will have broad-based partnerships to support their reforms -- including parents, teachers, local government, business and civic groups, institutions of higher education and other key stakeholders. Successful applications will show how the district will use all available resources -- federal, state, and local, as well as any business or foundation funds -- to carry out its reform strategy and maintain it once these federal funds are no longer available.

REWARDS FOR DEMONSTRATED STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT GAINS. Each Education Opportunity Zone will agree to specific, ambitious, benchmarks for improved student achievement, lower dropout rates and other indicators of success, for districtwide performance and specific student subgroups. Districts may receive further support in years 4 and 5 only if they have demonstrated success in reaching those benchmarks.

GREATER FLEXIBILITY IN USING OTHER FEDERAL RESOURCES. All schools in an Education Opportunity Zone school district -- regardless of poverty level -- will become eligible for schoolwide flexibility in the use of federal education funds. Requirements pertaining to school accountability, as well as special education, health, safety, and civil rights, will continue to be met.

ASSISTANCE TO HELP DISTRICTS FIND AND SHARE WHAT WORKS. The Department of Education will offer technical assistance, use technology to help districts consult with each other, and disseminate lessons learned to communities nationwide. Special attention will be given to helping school districts design and implement strategies for providing students who need it with early intervention and extra help to enable them to meet promotion standards. In addition, a national evaluation of the Education Opportunity Zones will be conducted, with the results helping to inform the next reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

BOLD ACTION TO HELP CHILDREN IN OUR CITIES AND RURAL AREAS. Education Opportunity Zones are part of a broader set of initiatives to help strengthen high-poverty urban and rural schools. President Clinton is also proposing new initiatives to reduce class size in the primary grades, modernize school buildings, recruit and prepare teachers for underserved urban and rural areas, and dramatically expand the availability and quality of child care and after-school learning opportunities. These and other proposals will have a powerful impact on improving the prospects of children in some of our poorest communities.