View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 8, 1998
                                May 8, 1998

Today, the President spoke to the Delaware legislature to promote his comprehensive education agenda. He announced that he is transmitting legislation to Congress to reduce class size to a national average of 18 in grades 1-3, and he highlighted two new reports by the Department of Education, one showing that smaller classes lead to improved student achievement and the other showing that all states have now adopted legislation requiring students to be expelled if they bring a firearm to school.

REDUCING CLASS SIZE IN GRADES 1-3 TO NATIONWIDE AVERAGE OF 18. President Clinton transmitted legislation today to help local schools provide smaller classes with well-prepared teachers in the early grades. The initiative would provide $12.4 billion over 7 years to help make sure that every child receives personal attention, gets a solid foundation for further learning, and learns to read independently and well by the end of third grade. The initiative would reduce class size in grades 1-3 to a nationwide average of 18 by providing funds to help local school districts hire and pay the salaries of an additional 100,000 teachers. States would receive funds to boost teacher quality through teacher training, recruitment, and testing, and new teachers would be required to pass state competency tests.

NEW REPORT SHOWS THAT SMALL CLASSES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. The President announced a new Education Department report showing that reducing class size, especially in the early grades, leads to improved student achievement. According to the report -- which analyzed the data and findings from the most carefully designed research studies on class size -- the research shows that:

      Smaller class size increases student achievement.  The report 
     found that reducing class size from substantially above 20 
     students per class to below 20 students leads to gains in student 
     achievement with the performance of the average student moving 
     from the 50th percentile to somewhere above the 60th percentile.  
     According to studies, students from smaller classes in North 
     Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Tennessee outperformed their 
     peers in larger classes.  According to a follow-up study, 
     students from smaller classes in Tennessee continued to 
     outperform their peers in all academic subjects even after 
     returning to larger classes in the 4th grade.  An analysis of
     data on 10,000 4th graders in 203 school districts and 10,000 8th
     graders in 182 school districts across the United States shows 
     that students in smaller classes performed better in 4th grade 
     and 8th grade than comparable students in larger classes.

      Smaller classes reduce discipline problems and increase 
     instruction time for teachers.  In Burke County, North Carolina, 
     the percentage of classroom time devoted to instruction increased 
     from 80 percent to 86 percent, while the time devoted to 
     non-instructional activities such as discipline, decreased from 
     20 percent to 14 percent when class size was reduced.  Students 
     from Tennessee's STAR program worked harder and caused fewer 
     discipline problems than students from larger classes even after 
     the STAR students returned to large classrooms.

      Smaller classes with well-prepared teachers make a difference.
     Smaller classes would boost student achievement the most when 
     teachers are prepared to teach well in these classes.  A review 
     of more than 100 research studies indicates that positive effects 
     of smaller classes were more likely if teachers change their 
     instructional methods and classroom procedures in the smaller 
     classes.  Class size reduction efforts resulting in student 
     achievement gains in Wisconsin and North Carolina included a 
     strong focus on professional development for teachers.

      Smaller classes make the greatest impact in the early grades, 
     and for disadvantaged and minority students.  The clearest 
     evidence of positive effects of smaller classes on student 
     performance are in the primary grades, particularly kindergarten 
     through third grade.  Research on class size reduction efforts 
     in Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, and North Carolina show clear 
     academic gains for students in smaller classes through the third 
     grade, while studies questioning the impact of class size have 
     often focused on class size variation across all grade levels.   
     The national study of 10,000 4th graders and 10,000 8th graders 
     found the greatest impact of smaller classes on inner-city youth.

ENFORCING ZERO TOLERANCE FOR GUNS IN SCHOOLS. A report on the Gun-Free Schools Act issued by the Department of Education today indicates that all states have now passed legislation providing that students who bring firearms to school will be expelled for at least one year. Although most schools do not report serious crimes to law enforcement -- and less than 1% of students report ever bringing a gun to school -- this new report shows that more than 6,000 students were disciplined for bringing a firearm (i.e., handguns, rifles, bombs, etc.) to their schools during the 1996-1997 school year. Most of these cases involved handguns that were brought to high schools.

ENDORSEMENTS FROM MAJOR EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS. Major education organizations say that the President's class size initiative is the kind of initiative that has the potential to make a real difference in raising the academic achievement of young Americans. These organizations include the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS), Federal Advocacy for California Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the National Education Association (NEA), the National Parent Teacher Association, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), NAACP, the National Association of School Psychologists, the International Reading Association (IRA), and the Executive Director of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.