THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S PLAN TO STRENGTHEN ACCOUNTABILITY FOR RESULTS IN EDUCATION January 18, 1999
In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton will announce a package of accountability measures designed to hold students, teachers, and schools to high standards, and to ensure that school districts and states provide students with a high quality education. These proposals will help to lift student achievement in every public school and close the opportunity gap by giving special attention to disadvantaged students in low-performing schools.
The President's plan marks a sea change in national education policy -- for the first time holding states and school districts accountable for progress and rewarding them for results. While insisting that states and local governments retain primary responsibility for education, President Clinton will call on Congress to make sure federal dollars support what works and not what doesn't. His proposal emphasizes reforms that a growing number of states, cities, and schools across the nation are implementing and that are producing clear results.
Specifically, the President will announce that he will send Congress legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure that schools end social promotion; teachers are qualified to teach the subjects they are assigned; states turn around their lowest-performing schools; parents get annual report cards on school performance; and schools institute effective discipline policies.
End Social Promotion. The President's proposal will require states and school districts to end social promotion -- the practice of promoting students from grade to grade regardless of whether they have mastered the appropriate material and are academically prepared to do the work at the next level. Students who are promoted without regard to their achievement fall even further behind their classmates, and are more likely to lack basic skills upon graduating from high school.
To ensure that this requirement helps more students succeed, rather than simply increasing the number held back, states and school districts would have to show how they will help students meet promotion standards on time by (1) strengthening learning opportunities in the classroom with clear standards, small classes with well-prepared teachers, high quality professional development, and use of proven instructional practices; (2) identifying students who need help at the earliest possible moment; (3) providing extended learning time, including after-school and summer school for students who need extra help; and (4) developing an effective remedial plan, with intensive intervention, for students who still do not meet the standards, so they can get back on track in their schooling.
In 1996 President Clinton challenged every state and school district to ad opt policies to end social promotion and require students to pass high school graduation exams. Twenty-six states now have high school exit exams, and last year four states adopted policies to stop promoting unprepared students from grade to grade. A growing number of urban school districts, including Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. are adopting similar policies. In Chicago, which three years ago ended the practice of social promotion in a way that gives students who need it substantial extended learning time, citywide math and reading scores have gone up every year, with the largest gains among the most disadvantaged students. President Clinton's FY 2000 budget proposes to triple federal funding for after-school and summer school programs (from $200 million to $600 million) to help schools ending social promotion give students the extra help they need to succeed.
Put Qualified Teachers in the Classroom. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, one of the most important factors in improving student achievement is the knowledge and skills teachers bring to the classroom. Yet every year, approximately 50,000 individuals teach on "emergency" certificates, which means they do not meet the standards the state has set for certification. In addition, numerous teachers teach subjects for which they lack adequate preparation, with fully one quarter of secondary school teachers lacking even a minor in their main teaching field. Students in schools with the highest concentrations of poverty -- those who often need the most help from the best teachers -- are most likely to be in classrooms with teachers who are not fully qualified: for example, in schools with the highest minority enrollment, students have a less than 50 percent chance of having a math or science teacher with a license and degree in the field.
The President's proposal will require states to adopt performance examinations for all new teachers, requiring them to demonstrate both subject-matter knowledge and teaching expertise. The proposal also will require states and school districts to phase out, over five years, the use of teachers with emergency certificates and the practice of assigning teachers to subjects for which they lack adequate preparation. To support these new teacher quality standards, the proposal will provide resources to help states strengthen teacher certification standards, test new teachers, provide training to current teachers, and give incentives to recruit more highly qualified teachers.
Turn Around Low Performing Schools. The President's proposal will require states to identify the schools with the lowest achievement levels and least improvement and take corrective action to turn them around. These corrective actions, based on a careful assessment of each school's needs, would include steps such as intensive teacher training, support to improve school discipline, and the implementation of proven approaches to school reform. If these actions do not result in improved student achievement within two years, the proposal would require states to take additional corrective actions, such as permitting students to attend other public schools; reconstituting the school, by fairly evaluating the staff and making staff changes as appropriate; or closing the school and reopening it as a charter school or with an entirely new staff. Nineteen states currently take similar actions to help improve low-performing schools, and experience demonstrates that when these interventions carefully implemented and accompanied by the resources to support change, schools improve and student achievement increases. The President's FY 2000 budget contains $200 million to help states begin taking these steps immediately.
Issue School Report Cards. The President's proposal will require states to distribute to all parents annual report cards for each school and school district, as well as the state as a whole. The report cards will include information on student achievement, teacher professional qualifications, class size, school safety, and other factors that will help parents to judge the performance of the schools. Where appropriate, the report cards also will show the academic achievement of ethnic and racial subgroups, to ensure accountability for helping all students achieve. Thirty-six states currently publish or require local school districts to publish school report cards, and five additional states will begin the practice in the next two years. A recent report by Public Agenda, however, shows that only 31 percent of parents had seen these report cards. The President's proposal will help ensure that all parents in all states have access to the information they need to evaluate the quality of their schools and identify the areas in which improvement is needed.
Adopt Discipline Policies. Schools must be a place of learning. President Clinton already has challenged states, communities, and schools to take a number of steps to restore order and safety, such as adopting school uniforms, enforcing truancy laws, and imposing curfews. But in some schools, the breakdown of classroom discipline remains one of the biggest obstacles to learning and one of the greatest concerns for teachers, students, and parents alike. The President's proposal will require states and school districts to adopt discipline policies to make sure students have the chance to learn and teachers have the chance to teach.