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February 2, 1999

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From now on, we must say to states and school districts: Identify your worst-performing, least improving schools, and turn them around, or shut them down ... We must make sure all schools are on the right track. If we fail to do this, and do it quickly, we are going to lose another generation of children to low expectations, low educational achievement, and low prospects of moving ahead in life.

President Bill Clinton
February 2, 1999

Today, President Clinton travels to Boston, where he will announce a $200 million initiative in fiscal year 2000 to ensure that states and school districts take necessary action to improve low-performing schools. Today's announcement builds on the President's State of the Union address, where he called for all states and school districts to identify and turn around their worst-performing schools -- or shut them down.

Turning Around Poor Performing Schools. As we move into the 21st Century, ensuring a quality education for all our children will be crucial. President Clinton is working to provide states and school districts with the resources to turn around poor performing schools. The President's fiscal year 2000 budget includes:

  • $200 million in new funds for the Title I program, to be set aside for intervening in low-performing schools. This program would require states and school districts to identify 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.

States and school districts could take corrective action including: 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 faculty and administrators and making appropriate changes, or closing the school and reopening it as a charter school or with an entirely new staff.

Implementing A Strategy That Works. The President's plan is supported by the experience of schools nationwide who have implemented these types of reforms to turn around their schools:

  • North Carolina sent assistance teams into its 15 worst-performing elementary and middle schools in 1997. Within a year, 14 of these schools met state standards in reading and math;
  • The Miami-Dade School District identified 45 low-performing schools in 1995, implemented an intensive three-year corrective action plan, including school wide reading programs and improved technology, and determined last year that all of the schools had made progress;
  • In New York City, the Chancellor of the school system took direct control of the ten worst-performance schools in 1996 and determined just two years later that half the schools had made sufficient progress to be removed from the state's poor performing school list.

A Presidential Commitment To Strengthening Our Nation's Schools. Today's announcement is part of the President's comprehensive plan to provide our children with a world-class education for the 21st Century. The President's education agenda calls for:

  • Strengthening accountability by ensuring that schools end social promotion, issue school report cards and adopt discipline policies, and that teachers are qualified to teach the subjects they are assigned to teach;
  • Reducing class size in the early grades by hiring 100,000 well-prepared teachers;
  • Building and modernizing more than 5,000 public schools nationwide and triple funding for after-school programs.

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