THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON MEETS WITH U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS: STRENGTHENING PUBLIC SCHOOLS May 7, 1998
We [are] going to create education opportunity zones to give communities a chance to ... put accountability and high standards and high expectations and real, effective commitment to excellence into the schools. -- President Bill Clinton, December 3, 1997
Today, President Clinton met with the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the conclusion of their two-day Mayors Conference on Public Schools. In this historic meeting, the mayors came together with local education leaders to focus on strategies for strengthening public schools in America's cities. The President applauded the mayors' efforts, announced the introduction of important new legislation to help city schools, and released a report on turning around low-performing schools.
INTRODUCTION OF EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY ZONES LEGISLATION
President Clinton announced that Senator Kennedy and Congressman Clay today introduced legislation to create the Education Opportunity Zones called for in his 1998 State of the Union address. This program will provide competitive grants to support school districts with a track record of improving student achievement and a commitment to implementing cutting-edge reforms. Under the President's proposal, additional resources to advance reform efforts will go to approximately 50 high-poverty urban and rural school districts that have begun to show gains in student performance and that agree to (1) end social promotion and turn around failing schools; (2) prevent students from falling behind by ensuring quality teaching, challenging curricula, and extended learning time; and (3) use high standards and tests of student achievement to identify and provide help to students, teachers, and schools who need it. 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 would invest $200 million in FY99, and $1.5 billion over 5 years.
REPORT ON TURNING AROUND LOW-PERFORMING SCHOOLS.
Strengthening public education requires that local and state officials refuse to tolerate persistently low-performing schools and instead take positive steps to turn them around. This requirement is a centerpiece of the President's Education Opportunity Zones proposal. President Clinton announced today that the Education Department has released Turning Around Low Performing Schools, a report which provides guidelines to help state and local officials and educators accomplish this task. Based on analysis of efforts in cities such as Chicago, New York, and San Antonio and states such as Maryland and Texas, the report calls on state and local officials to establish high academic standards, tests of student performance, and accountability systems that identify persistently low performing schools.
To turn around low performing schools, the report recommends that school systems intervene to ensure that these schools restore order and discipline, strengthen professional development, implement proven models of comprehensive school reform, and provide extra help to students who have fallen behind through after-school and summer-school programs. The report recommends that states or school districts establish intervention procedures that target the human, technical, and financial resources necessary for schools to develop and implement an improvement plan. While noting that the changes needed to turn schools around usually depend upon establishing collaborative relationships with school staff, the report also recognizes procedures for "reconstituting" low performing schools that involve replacing the principal and other school staff.
LEADERSHIP TO END SOCIAL PROMOTIONS
At the 1996 National Education Summit between governors and business leaders, President Clinton challenged state and local officials to end the practice of social promotion -- the practice of advancing students to the next grade level regardless of whether they have met academic standards. This practice hurts the students who are promoted, and prevents parents and the public from holding schools accountable for results. The President reiterated this challenge in this year's State of the Union address. Today, the Action Plan adopted by Mayors responds to that challenge, and calls for an end to social promotions. Currently, 10 states have policies prohibiting the advancement of students who have not met specified requirements and 5 additional states have legislation pending to eliminate social promotions. A growing number of school districts, including Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Long Beach, Rochester, Washington DC, New York City, and Philadelphia also have such policies in place or under consideration.
MAYORS' ACTION PLAN FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION ENDORSES CLINTON EDUCATION AGENDA
The Mayors presented President Clinton with a copy of the Mayors' Action Agenda for Public Schools. This plan calls on Mayors to exercise leadership by making the quality of public education the highest priority of a city, by focusing city resources on improving education, and by forming coalitions and partnerships among city government agencies, school officials, business leaders, higher education institutions, and community and civic organizations. It encourages mayors to focus attention on promoting quality by raising standards, ending social promotions, strengthening accountability, improving the preparation of teachers, equipping schools with modern technology, and providing early childhood education, child care, and after school programs. The Action Agenda endorses key components of President Clinton's education agenda, including his Education Opportunity Zones proposal and his School Modernization initiative.
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S AGENDA SUPPORTS URBAN SCHOOLS
The Education Opportunity Zones are part of a broader education agenda to help strengthen urban schools. President Clinton has also proposed 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.