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May 8, 1998

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If we are going to prepare our children for the challenges of the 21st Century, we need nothing less than a revolution of rising expectations in our schools. A revolution in quality -- in standards --in accountability -- in excellence.

- President Bill Clinton
May 8, 1998

Today, President Clinton becomes the first President in office to address the Delaware State Legislature, where he discusses the key elements of his education agenda. During his remarks, the President announces the release of two Department of Education reports -- one on class size and learning and one on school violence -- and announces that he is sending legislation to Congress to assist school districts in reducing overcrowding in the classroom.

Improving Schools For The 21st Century. President Clinton's broad education agenda is designed to ensure that American public schools remain "ladders of opportunity" into the 21st Century. Over the last few years, his plan has made higher education accessible to all Americans. Now, the President is implementing the next part of his agenda, a comprehensive plan to improve K-12 education that embraces four key elements: 1) real accountability from students, teachers and schools; 2) safe schools; 3) high standards; and 4) more choice in public education.

Demanding Accountability From Our Schools And Giving Them The Tools They Need To Succeed. President Clinton's plan requires accountability from all participants in the education process and gives schools, teachers, parents and students the tools they need to succeed. Today, the Department of Education releases a report showing that reduced class size leads to improved student achievement, particularly in the early grades. When class size goes down enough, learning goes up, especially in Kindergarten through the third grade and among students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Today, President Clinton is sending legislation to Congress that:

  • helps schools reduce the average size of classes in grades 1-3 to 18 students per class and improves reading performances of our children by helping hire an additional 100,000 additional well-prepared teachers nationwide;
  • ensures these teachers have the preparation and training they need to help all of our children read independently and well by the end of the third grade;
  • requires the implementation of competency testing for new teachers;
  • holds school districts accountable for improvements in student test results; and
  • targets funds for those school districts with the greatest need.

Enforcing Zero Tolerance For Guns In Schools. In order for students to learn at school, they must be safe at school. A report issued by the Department of Education today indicates that all states have now passed legislation providing for students who bring firearms to school to be expelled for at least one year and that more than 6,000 students were disciplined for bringing in a firearm (i.e. handguns, rifles, bombs, etc.) to their schools during the 1996-1997 school year. The President's plan makes schools safer by continued emphasis on Zero Tolerance Laws, and by supporting the expansion of after-school programs for up to half a million children a year.

Achieving High Standards. The President's plan ensures that all students attend schools where high standards are taken seriously and kids are given the help they need to succeed. It supports the continued development and implementation of high national standards and tests, so states can measure their own students' progress against national standards in 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. It also establishes educational opportunity zones in poor urban and rural communities to end social promotion and give students the tools and opportunities needed for success. Finally, it ensures that more students learn what they need the first time around, and help those who do not get extra tutoring and summer school.

Providing More Choice In Public Education. The President strongly supports charter schools, public schools that tailor their curriculum to the needs of students, and stay open as long as they continue to meet the highest educational standards. The President has called on all states to pass legislation allowing charter schools, and today, 32 states have passed laws with 800 charter schools now operating around the nation. The President is calling on Congress to approve his request to help parents, teachers, and communities get the start-up funding they need to start the highest quality charter schools.


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