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Start the revolution

President Clinton says he wants a revolution in mathematics and science education. On Capitol Hill, two Republicans want to put a commission in charge of it.

"We know that for our time we need a revolution in high standards, accountability, and rising expectations," Mr. Clinton said at Springbrook High School in suburban Silver Spring, Md., on March 16. "We know the revolution works."

Mr. Clinton is urging all high school students to take physics and trigonometry and teachers of those classes to be qualified to teach them. His proposals for national tests of student achievement and $350 million in new teacher training grants would give students and schools incentives to make changes, according to the administration.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-Md., say a group of 12 experts should guide the nation's future math course. They have introduced bills that would create a "Commission for American Mathematics Leadership" to map out a strategy for raising student performance.

The politicians were propelled into action by the poor scores of American 12th graders on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. The United States scored lower than students from all but three of the other 20 nations in the study. Mr. Clinton's remarks in Silver Spring came during a brainstorming session to respond to the TIMSS scores. ("U.S. Seniors Near Bottom in World Test," March 4, 1998.)

Reading first

Some House members, meanwhile, are directing their attention to a different subject and age group: reading and young children.

Rep. Anne M. Northup, R-Ky., and Rep. Carrie P. Meek, D-Fla., announced recently that they have formed the House Reading Caucus. As of March 19, the group had 20 members, and more are expected to join, said Patrick Neely, Ms. Northup's spokesman.

The two co-founders serve on the Appropriations Committee, but Ms. Northup isn't guaranteeing that she will seek extra money for literacy.

"Our federal government has continued to pour millions of dollars into literacy programs without success," her statement said. "We have an obligation to taxpayers, whose money is being wasted on ineffective bureaucratic solutions, and to children, who are not mastering the basic skills necessary to succeed in our world."

--DAVID J. HOFF [email protected]

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