View Header
                            THE WHITE HOUSE
                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                      March 16,1998
                              March 16, 1998

Today, President Clinton convened leaders from government, business, education, and the scientific community to discuss how the nation should respond to recent findings from the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) showing that U.S. 12th graders lagged below the international average in science and math. This followed earlier findings showing U.S. 4th graders near the first in the world in science and above average in math, with U.S. 8th graders slipping to slightly above average in science and below average in math. The President called on the nation to move forward on his plan to improve American education and to boost student achievement in math and science. To help ensure that every student has a well-prepared teacher, the President also challenged states to require all new math and science teachers to pass challenging tests of their subject matter knowledge and teaching proficiency. He also announced new on-line math and science help for parents, teachers, and students.

A CHALLENGE FOR BETTER PREPARED TEACHERS: A key to improving math and science education is to ensure that every student has a well-prepared teacher--a teacher who has a strong academic background in the subject he or she teaches, and the skills to teach it effectively to diverse groups of students. President Clinton challenged states today to raise the standards for preparing and licensing teachers, so that all math and science teachers have a major in the primary subject they teach, and pass high-level competency tests before being permitted to teach.

Reducing Out-of-Field Teaching. The President challenged states to reduce the percentage of math and science teachers without a major or minor in their subject area, by requiring new teachers to major in the primary subject they will teach, and by providing current teachers with the additional coursework and training. The average K-8th grade math teacher has taken only three undergraduate math courses. Twenty-eight percent of secondary math teachers lack a major or minor in their subject area, as do 18% of secondary science teachers including 55% of physics teachers.

Rigorous Tests for New Teachers. To help address this challenge, the President called on states to require all new teachers of math and science to pass challenging tests of math or science knowledge and teaching proficiency. With nearly half of our nation's teaching force being replaced over the next several years in order to accommodate growing student enrollments and an aging teaching force, raising teaching standards now can boost the quality of our schools for decades to come.

A Call to Action for Schools, Students, and Parents. Today, the President also challenged schools to offer and students to take tough math and science courses in middle school and high school. Just a quarter of U.S. students take algebra before high school, and only 25% of U.S. high school students take physics. The President called on parents to insist that states and school districts provide ways of showing how children are doing compared to national standards and international benchmarks. Today, parents have no way of finding out how their children are doing compared to the international standards in TIMSS. The President called on the nation to take the steps necessary to boost student achievement in math and science and encourage young people with proficiency in math and science to consider careers in teaching.

NEW ON-LINE ASSISTANCE FOR PARENTS, STUDENTS, AND TEACHERS. President Clinton today announced two new on-line resources developed by the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies.

"Federal Resources for Educational Excellence" (FREE) Web-site. A new website is available today to connect teachers, parents, and students to teaching and learning resources in math, science, and other subject areas from NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. The address is

The TIMSS On-Line Challenge. This fall, the U.S. Department of Education will launch a website that puts TIMSS math and science problems on-line. This site will enable parents to quiz their children, to learn what their children should know in math and science to be internationally competitive, and to learn how their children are doing compared to students from other countries.

PRESIDENT CLINTON'S EDUCATION AGENDA: MAKING OUR ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS THE FINEST IN THE WORLD. The recent TIMSS findings demonstrate the importance of President Clinton's bold plan to improve American education and boost student achievement in math, science, and other academic subjects.

Voluntary National Standards and Tests in Math and Reading. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, President Clinton challenged every state to adopt high national standards and to test every 4th grader in reading and 8th grader in math to make sure these standards are met. Rigorous 8th grade math testing can help make sure that middle school students are prepared to succeed in tough math and science courses in high school. Voluntary national tests are being developed under the control of the bipartisan, independent National Assessment Governing Board.

Smaller Classes with Well-Prepared Teachers. President Clinton is proposing to help local schools provide small classes with well-prepared teachers in the early grades. The new initiative will help hire an additional 100,000 well-prepared teachers and reduce class size in grades 1-3 to a nationwide average of 18. The President is also proposing support for training teachers in math, science, and technology and for recruiting quality teachers into poor schools and high-need subjects like math and science.

Modern School Buildings to Improve Student Learning. For students to learn and to compete in the global economy, schools must be well-equipped and they must be able to accommodate smaller class sizes. That's why President Clinton is proposing federal tax credits to pay interest on nearly $22 billion in bonds to build and renovate public schools.

Education Opportunity Zones: Ending Social Promotion and Fixing Failing Schools. The President's budget contains support for urban and rural school districts undertaking tough reforms including ending social promotion and fixing failing schools. This initiative would help students meet promotion standards at selected grades, help turn around failing schools, and expand parental choice among public schools.

Technology for Our Schools and Rigorous Math and Science Courses for Our Students. The President's plan would ensure that all our children get access to the "information superhighway." His "High Hopes" plan would support partnerships to help low-income students get access to the rigorous math and science courses needed to prepare them for college. The President's budget also contains $60 million to improve math and science curriculum and teaching in middle schools.

(See attached sheet for list of participants)