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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 2, 1999


February 2, 1999

In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton called on all states and school districts to identify and turn around their worst-performing schools -- or shut them down. Today, in a visit to the Jackson/Mann Elementary School in Brighton, Massachusetts, President Clinton will announce a $200 million initiative in the FY 2000 budget to ensure that states and school districts take the necessary corrective actions to improve low-performing schools.

$200 Million to Turn Around Low Performing Schools. The President's FY 2000 budget includes $200 million in new funds for the Title I program, to be set aside for intervening in low-performing schools. The President's proposal would require states and school districts to identify the schools with the lowest achievement levels and least improvement, assess each of their needs, and implement individual corrective action plans to turn these schools around. The corrective action plans could include such steps as intensive teacher training, disciplinary assistance, and implementation of proven school reforms. If these actions fail to improve student achievement within two years, the President's proposal would require states and school districts to take additional corrective actions, such as permitting all students to attend other public schools; reconstituting the school, by evaluating the staff (faculty and administration) and making appropriate changes; or closing the school and reopening it as a charter school or with an entirely new staff. The funds provided in the President's budget would support these interventions.

An Approach that Works. Experience demonstrates such interventions raise student achievement and improve schools when coupled with adequate resources to support change. After North Carolina sent assistance teams into its 15 worst-performing elementary and middle schools in 1997, 14 turned around within the year and met state standards in reading and math. Similar results have occurred in individual school districts across the country. The Miami-Dade School District identified 45 low-performing schools in 1995, implemented intensive three-year corrective action plans including schoolwide reading programs and improved technology, and determined last year that all of the schools had made progress. And in New York City, the Chancellor (superintendent) of the school system took direct control of the ten worst-performing schools in 1996 and determined just two years later that half the schools had made sufficient progress to be removed from his supervision.

Making Common Sense Common Practice -- Now. Holding every school accountable for results, providing extra help to schools that need it, and reconstituting or closing down schools that still fail to improve -- this is a common-sense approach to strengthening public education. President Clinton's proposal will dramatically accelerate efforts by states and school districts to turn around low-performing schools. In March 1996, President Clinton challenged every state and school district to take responsibility for intervening in low-performing schools. According to a recent Education Week study, 19 states currently have policies in place to help improve low-performing schools. A growing number of urban school systems, including New York City, San Francisco, Dade County, Philadelphia, and Chicago, also are taking steps to intervene aggressively in schools with the lowest achievement levels and least improvement. The Boston Public Schools will begin next year to place their lowest-performing schools under intensive corrective action plans. The President's proposal will ensure that every state and school district take responsibility to turn around low-performing schools, and that more of our children get a quality education.