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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 19, 1999
                              May 19, 1999

Today, the President announced that this week he will transmit to Congress his proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This legislation authorizes the federal government's largest investments in elementary and secondary education and is its most significant effort to ensure that all children receive a quality education. This proposal will strengthen accountability, improve teacher quality, increase school safety, expand public school choice, promote secondary school reform, and reauthorize programs such as Title I (aid to disadvantaged students), bilingual education, magnet schools, and programs that support technology in schools.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR RESULTS. The President's ESEA proposal includes accountability measures he announced in his State of the Union Address that for the first time will hold school districts and states accountable for real results. The federal government spends about $15 billion a year on our public schools. The President's proposal will fundamentally change the way we spend that money, to support what works and stop supporting what doesn't. The legislation will require states and school districts to turn around failing schools, issue report cards to parents on how schools are doing, put qualified teachers in the classroom, adopt sound discipline codes, and end the practice of social promotion, not by holding students back but by providing meaningful after-school and summer school programs, smaller classes, and other early interventions to lift them up.

Turn Around Failing Schools. The President's proposal will require states and school districts to publicly identify the lowest-performing schools and intervene to turn them around. These interventions would include steps such as intensive teacher training, extended learning opportunities and the implementation of proven approaches to school reform. If there is no satisfactory improvement in student performance within two years, districts would be required to take corrective actions, such as permitting students to attend other public schools; reconstituting the school and making significant staff changes; or closing the school entirely and reopening it as a charter school. Nineteen states currently take similar actions to turn around low-performing schools, and experience demonstrates that when these interventions are carefully implemented and accompanied by the necessary resources, schools and students make significant gains. The President's FY 2000 budget contains $200 million to help states take these steps immediately.

Issue School Report Cards to Empower Parents. The President's proposal will require states and school districts to distribute to all parents and taxpayers annual report cards for each school and school district, as well as for the state as a whole. These report cards will include information on student achievement, teacher qualifications, class size, school safety, and attendance and graduation rates. Where appropriate, the report cards will show academic achievement by demographic groups, to help focus on the need to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. 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 have access to the information they need to evaluate the quality of their schools and identify the areas in which improvement is needed.

Put Qualified Teachers in the Classroom. 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. 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 four years, the use of teachers with emergency certificates and the practice of assigning teachers to subjects for which they lack adequate preparation. States would have to ensure that within four years, at least 95% of their teachers are fully certified through regular or alternative routes, are in a program that leads to full certification within three years or are fully certified in another state and working toward meeting any state-specific requirements. 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 offer incentives to recruit more highly qualified teachers.

Adopt and Enforce Sound, Fair Discipline Policies. In many 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 fair, consistent discipline policies that are developed with the participation of the school community. In the case of students who are suspended or expelled from school, schools must provide appropriate supervision, counseling, and educational services.

End Social Promotion and Help All Students Meet Challenging Standards. The President's proposal will require states and school districts to end the practice of social promotion, not by holding students back but by providing qualified teachers, meaningful after-school and summer school programs, smaller classes, and other early interventions to help students succeed. Students will have to demonstrate that they meet standards at three key transition points, including graduation from high school. States and school districts will need to help all students meet challenging standards by:

Supporting Students Who Need Extra Help. To ensure that this requirement helps more students succeed, the President's proposal would hold states and school districts accountable for: (1) requiring early identification and intervention for students who need extra help; (2) providing all students with well-prepared teachers who are supported through high-quality professional development; and (3) providing extended learning time for students who need extra help, including after-school and summer school programs.

Reducing Class Size. The President's proposal will authorize continuation of his class-size reduction initiative -- which seeks to hire 100,000 teachers to reduce class size to a nationwide average of 18 in the early grades -- to give all students the individual attention they need to master the basics and meet challenging standards. Congress agreed last fall to a $1.2 billion downpayment on class size. Over seven years, the President's initiative would provide a total of $12.6 billion to help communities across the nation hire 100,000 well-prepared teachers. Studies show that smaller classes help teachers provide more personal attention to students and maintain discipline; as a result students learn more and get a stronger foundation in the basic skills.

Providing Extended Learning Time: After-School and Summer School Programs. Giving children more time to learn in enriching after-school, weekend and summer school programs can be an effective tool in helping all students meet high academic standards and ending both social promotion and retention. The President's proposal will continue his administration's strong commitment to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides grants to public schools to offer additional learning opportunities for students and community members. The President's FY 2000 budget provides $600 million for this program - triple what Congress approved last fall.

ENSURING TEACHER QUALITY. The President's proposal includes several measures to improve teacher quality and put more highly trained teachers into America's public schools.

Help Teachers Teach to High Standards. The President's proposal includes a new, comprehensive Teaching to High Standards initiative to help schools and school districts give teachers the tools and training they need to help students reach high standards. The initiative would support state and local efforts to: (1) help teachers and principals align curricula and assessments with challenging state and local content standards; (2) provide teachers with sustained and intensive high-quality professional development in core academic content areas; (3) support new teachers during their first three years in the classroom; and (4) help ensure that all teachers are proficient in content knowledge and teaching skills. This new initiative takes the place of, and incorporates the most successful elements of, three current state grant programs: Goals 2000, Eisenhower Professional Development, and ESEA Title VI Innovative Education Program Strategies. In FY 1999, Congress appropriated a total of $1.2 billion for those three programs.

Expand Recruitment and Retention Efforts. To help meet the need for 2.2 million new teachers over the next decade, the President's proposal would support state and local efforts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in high-need areas, including a national job bank and effort to increase portability of teaching licenses and pensions. His proposal would also preserve and build on the successful Troops to Teachers program, which has helped 3,000 retiring military personnel become teachers in public schools since 1994. This expanded initiative -- Transition to Teaching -- would provide scholarships and other support to help retiring military and other non-military mid-career professionals to become teachers, particularly in high-poverty schools and in high-need subject areas like math, science, or special education.

Qualified Teachers in High-Poverty Schools. In order to help ensure that students in the most need are being taught by qualified teachers, the President's proposal would require all new teachers in programs supported with Title I funds to be fully certified in the subject that they teach. Within two years, teacher aides in Title I schools with less than two years of college would be limited to non-instructional duties, while those with two years or more of college could provide instructional support and tutoring only under the supervision of a certified teacher.

SAFE, DISCIPLINED AND DRUG-FREE SCHOOLS. The President 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, and has sent Congress common-sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and young people. This proposal would take additional steps to help ensure that each school is a safe, healthy, disciplined, and drug-free learning environment that allows teachers to teach and students to learn.

Strengthened Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Program. The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program represents the federal government's largest effort to prevent youth drug use and school violence. Under the President's proposal, school districts would be expected to develop comprehensive plans that, among other things, use proven anti-drug and violence prevention programs, collect and report relevant data, intervene with troubled youth, and establish security procedures for schools. This proposal would also support programs that educate students about the risks associated with guns; promote alternative schools and "second chance" programs for students who constantly disrupt classes; and expand character education programs that help instill common sense values in our children.

Counseling for Students Bringing Guns to School. Under current law, schools are generally required to expel any student who brings a gun or explosive device to school, as well as to report that student to local law enforcement officials and juvenile justice authorities. During the 1996-97 school year, this national policy of "zero tolerance" for guns resulted in more than 6,000 students being expelled from school. The President's new proposal requires an assessment of any student expelled for bringing a firearm to school to determine if the student poses an imminent threat of harm to himself or others -- in which case the student must receive appropriate treatment before returning to school.

Report to Parents on Gun and Drug Incidents. Parents have a right to know that their children are safe. The President's proposal requires schools to give parents an annual report of gun, drug, and violent incidents in their child's school.

Emergency Response to Violence. The President's reauthorization proposal also contains his Project SERV initiative -- developed with the help of the communities impacted by recent schools shootings -- to provide immediate assistance as soon as a school-related violent or traumatic incident occurs, through: an Emergency Response Fund to help communities meet urgent and unplanned needs, such as additional security personnel, emergency mental health crisis counseling, and longer-term counseling to students, faculty, and their families; and Crisis Response Experts identified and funded by the Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and FEMA, who can help local officials identify and respond to community needs. Officials from those federal agencies worked together to help schools affected by last year's shootings. These agencies will continue to work together as part of Project SERV.