School & District Management

Clinton Turns Spotlight On Performance

By Joetta L. Sack — May 10, 2000 4 min read

President Clinton has ordered federal education officials to help states and districts turn around low-performing schools and to release an annual report card on such efforts.

The president issued an executive order in Owensboro, Ky., last week as part of a two-day tour to highlight what he considers promising education reforms and promote his proposals for greater accountability for school performance. The document directs the Department of Education to compile data on low-performing schools and provide research and assistance to states and districts.

“We’ve now had 20 years of serious effort at educational reform. ... We know what works,” Mr. Clinton said May 3. “I came to Kentucky to show America how a whole state can identify and turn around low-performing schools with high standards and accountability, parental involvement, and investments to help the schools and the students and the teachers meet the standards.”

Mr. Clinton also visited a charter school in St. Paul, Minn.; touted his school construction proposal in Davenport, Iowa; and promoted plans for better teacher training in Columbus, Ohio. In Minnesota, he called on the federal Education Department to issue guidelines to help businesses and religious groups, among other community members, become involved in charter schools.

His executive order directs the secretary of education to:

  • Provide technical assistance and research to help states’ and districts’ improvement efforts;
  • Make federal education programs more responsive to low-performing schools;
  • Submit an annual report that would include emerging trends and effective strategies from those schools, as well as look at the efforts being made to turn the schools around and the resources the schools are receiving; and
  • Send federal monitors into as many as 15 states each year to ensure that states are complying with accountability requirements.

The president’s plans for aiding failing schools dovetail with ideas put forward by Vice President Al Gore as part of his campaign to succeed Mr. Clinton. Mr. Gore recently proposed a $500 million accountability plan that would require states and districts to identify and fix failing schools and offer supplemental resources, such as after-school programs, for students in those schools.

Congressional Republicans saw more politics than substance in Mr. Clinton’s high-profile education tour. Rep. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said that while Mr. Clinton’s efforts to praise schools that have shown remarkable achievements were laudable, last week’s appearances were motivated by the president’s desire to promote his favorite initiatives.

“We should be focusing on how to provide maximum leverage for local dollars,” Mr. Goodling said in a written statement. Mr. Clinton, he said, “needs to put the needs of the nation ahead of political considerations.”

Amy Wilkins, a policy analyst for the Education Trust, a nonpartisan, Washington-based advocacy group for disadvantaged children, said she did not expect Mr. Clinton’s executive order to have much effect on overall efforts to raise standards for students in all schools.

“It’s good for what it is, but it’s only a small piece of what needs to be done,” she said. “The problem with the administration’s construction of accountability is that they have it in their head that accountability only means attention to those schools at the bottom.”

Religion, Charter Schools

Last Thursday, the second day of the tour, Mr. Clinton directed Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley to issue guidelines on charter schools so that religious groups and private employers might be more willing to make contributions to and help guide the development of the largely independent public schools. The role of religious groups in such schools has raised questions in some communities and is being played out in court cases. (“Buildings in Hand, Church Leaders Float Charter Ideas,” Feb. 10, 1999.)

“While charter schools have to be nonsectarian, there is a role, a positive role, that faith-based groups can play,” Mr. Clinton said. “My goal is to get more money and more people involved in the charter school movement, to break down the walls of resistance among all the educators to it, and to get community people more aware of it.”

Jeanne Allen, the president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington group that advocates charter schools and other forms of school choice, said she was happy to see the president bring attention to charters and point out that some state laws need strengthening. But she questioned the need for federal guidelines, given that charters are designed to be autonomous.

“Here was a perfect opportunity for a rhetorical, bully-pulpit speech supporting charter schools, but somehow the regulators got a hold of his remarks,” Ms. Allen said. “For the secretary to issue guidelines on something they are not directly involved in raises a red flag.”

Earlier this year, the department reissued a 1996 guide summing up existing laws on religion in charter schools.

President Clinton renewed calls for more charter schools and more federal funding while visiting City Academy in St. Paul, the nation’s first charter school, which opened in 1992. Several times during his speech there, he pointed out that City Academy was still the lone charter school when he took office in 1993, and that now there are nearly 1,700 across the country.

His longtime goal has been to have a total of 3,000 charter schools open by the time he leaves office next January.

A version of this article appeared in the May 10, 2000 edition of Education Week as Clinton Turns Spotlight On Performance


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 'You Can’t Follow CDC Guidelines': What Schools Really Look Like During COVID-19
All year, some teachers have said that enforcing precautions to slow the spread of the virus in classrooms can be nearly impossible.
13 min read
Guntown Middle School eighth graders walk the halls to their next class as others wait in their assigned spots against the wall before moving into their next class during the first day back to school for the Lee County District in Guntown, Miss on Aug. 6, 2020.
Eight graders walk the halls on the first day back to school in Guntown, Miss., on Aug. 6, 2020. Teachers in several states told Education Week that since the beginning of the school year, enforcing precautions such as social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus has been nearly impossible.<br/>
Adam Robison/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP
School & District Management Opinion School Reopening Requires More Than Just Following the Science
Educators can only “follow the science” so far. Professional expertise matters too, writes Susan Moore Johnson.
Susan Moore Johnson
5 min read
Illustration of school and bus
School & District Management Why Teacher Vaccinations Are So Hard to Track
Teachers can now get the COVID-19 vaccine, but there’s no way of knowing how many are currently inoculated against the virus.
6 min read
Image of a needle and vaccine bottle.
School & District Management Do Teachers Have to Disclose Their Vaccination Status? Experts Weigh In
Experts answer four pressing questions about teachers, privacy, and COVID-19 vaccines.
3 min read
Vaccine record.
Bill Oxford/iStock/Getty