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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release January 12, 2000

     Washington, D.C. -- Vice President Gore today unveiled a $120

million initiative to create smaller, safer and better high schools. The Administration's Small, Safe and Successful High Schools initiative -- which will be included in the Administration's budget for Fiscal Year 2001 -- exemplifies the Vice President's commitment to reforming the American high school, and ensuring a world-class education for all of America's students.

"The idea is simple: small schools give kids a big boost," said Vice President Gore. "Smaller schools mean more personal attention to the varied needs of all our children, helping both those who are struggling and those who are excelling to achieve their full potential."

The program would offer competitive grants to local school districts to create smaller schools or break up larger schools by funding innovative strategies such as autonomous schools-within-schools, career academies, restructured school days, and other innovations that allow schools to ensure that every student receives personal attention and academic support. Funds to create smaller schools could be used for planning and implementation costs, including costs to reorganize schools, train teachers, renovate facilities, and provide extended learning time and support services for students.

In addition to creating smaller, better high schools, the grants would help schools create a clear focus on student success: innovative, engaging and challenging curriculum integrated around a coherent focus; teachers working together to meet the needs of their students; strong leadership; the involvement of families and community; and technology to enhance achievement.

Research confirms what parents intuitively believe: that smaller schools are safer and more productive because students feel less alienated, more nurtured and more connected to caring adults, and teachers feel that they have more opportunity to get to know and support their students. Smaller schools also have better attendance records, lower dropout rates and fewer discipline problems. Research also shows that small schools can offer a strong core curriculum and, in most cases, a level of academically advanced courses comparable to large schools.

Recent incidents of school violence, like the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, are causing serious alarm among parents and students who are unsure what has caused such tremendous alienation and aggression in some of our teenagers. In addition to the need for more parental involvement and stricter discipline policies, many educators are pointing to a systemic problem -- the model of the American high school.

In response to these concerns, Representative David Obey (D-WI) included $45 million in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget to create smaller high schools. The new Administration initiative announced today will build on Rep. Obey's down-payment and will help our children make the most of their education.

"Tragic incidents of school violence make it clear that many of our teenagers need more attention than larger high schools can give them," added the Vice President. "We must help working families struggling to give their children attention and direction, by ensuring that our public high schools offer connections to caring adults as well as high academic standards."

Since the end of World War II, the number of schools nationwide has declined seventy percent, while average enrollment has grown 500 percent, or fivefold. There are more than 12,400 three and four year high schools in the United States. More than seventy percent of students in these schools attend a school with more than 1,000 students, and enrollments of 2,000 and 3,000 are common.

"As our economy changes, so must our schools. It's time for the large, factory-like high schools of the 20th century to make way for the smaller, more flexible and innovative institutions that will mark the 21st century," Gore said.