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AL GORE’S PLAN TO SAVE OUR SCHOOLS

Thursday, December 16, 1999

Reforming our schools is an urgent national priority that requires a national strategy. Al Gore knows that no issue is more important to ensuring that all Americans can succeed in the global economy. While Al Gore firmly believes that education is a state and local responsibility, he understands that in the new economy education must be a national priority that requires national leadership. Some candidates for President would turn their back on public schools, while others have decided that school reform does not require national attention. But Al Gore knows that if America is to succeed in the 21st century, all our children need a world class education.

Over the last seven years, we've taken important steps to begin the process of improving our schools.

  • We've helped states and communities set high academic standards for students,
  • We’ve set important goals like helping every child learn to read by the end of the third grade, and holding schools accountable for results,
  • We’ve given communities the money to begin hiring 100,000 qualified teachers over the next six years to help reduce class sizes in the early grades,
  • We've dramatically increased the number of charter schools,
  • We've provided more choice in our public schools,
  • We've dramatically increased accountability and,
  • We've opened the doors of college to millions of Americans.

    But we must do much more.

    Education for all remains a cornerstone of our democracy - our greatest tool to instill hope, fight poverty and eliminate intolerance. If we want to make sure no child gets left behind, we must act decisively to fulfill that promise for all of our children.

    Al Gore believes if we are going to truly reform our schools, we need to invest more, not less. Vice President Gore is proposing to devote $115 billion of the budget surplus to create an Education Reform Trust Fund which will fund new education investments: including universal preschool; reforming the American High School and smaller schools and smaller classes; high quality teachers, and fixing failing schools. But more money is only part of the solution, we also need to demand more from our students, our teachers, and our schools. That is why Al Gore’s education plan includes a set of new challenges to improve educational performance.

    As President, Al Gore would do more for education, and demand more in return:

    Do More for Our Students, Teachers, and Schools

    Smaller Schools and Smaller Classes: Research shows that small schools can offer a strong core curriculum and a level of academically advanced courses comparable to large schools. Small schools also have better attendance records, lower dropout rates and fewer discipline problems. Al Gore envisions a new American high school with smaller classes, smaller schools, and more individual attention for each student for each student to help our teenagers get on the right track and make our schools better and safer.

    Al Gore is proposing incentives to create smaller high schools. Under the Gore plan, grants would be made to schools or districts that have a strategy to build new, small high schools -- less than 600 students -- or break up existing schools in innovative ways, including autonomous schools-within-schools, career academies, charter schools, or smaller classes. Funding would be provided to states who will make grants to local school districts, partly through a competitive process, while ensuring that high need communities receive a fair share of funding. School districts receiving funding will also develop strategies to hold all students to high standards, including providing qualified students in every high school with the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses. He is also fighting to reduce class size to a national average of eighteen students in the early grades, and has set a national goal to reduce the average class size to twenty students in all grades.

    After School For Every Student In A Failing School: Al Gore is committed to dramatically increasing funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which supports the creation and expansion of after school and summer school programs throughout the country. Experts agree that school age children who are unsupervised during the hours after school are far more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, commit crimes, receive poor grades, and drop out of school than those who are involved in supervised, constructive activities. Al Gore has already fought hard to increase investment in after school from $1 million in 1997 to $453 million in this year’s budget. The Gore plan will dramatically increase funding for this initiative to help working families ensure that their children are getting extra help in a safe place in the critical after-school hours. This initiative will also help make available high-quality after-school help and instruction for every student in a failing school while states and school districts are taking aggressive steps to turn that school around.

    21st Century National Teachers Corps: To help ensure we have more high quality teachers as we enter the new millennium, Al Gore is proposing to create a 21st Century National Teacher Corps. The Teacher Corps would eventually help 75,000 talented people each year become teachers in high-need schools. This includes providing college scholarships to 60,000 young people annually who commit to teach in high-need schools for at least four years as well as bonuses and training for 15,000 mid-career professionals to become teachers every year. These scholarships will be awarded through local public-private partnerships.

    Triple The Number of Charter Schools By 2010: Charter Schools help expand parental choice within our public school system. Al Gore believes we should triple the number of high quality and accountable public charter schools available to students. As a complement to his smaller schools and classes proposal, this initiative would help create schools that are not only smaller, but have a common mission; teacher, parent and student buy-in; and increased autonomy.

    School Construction: For students to learn, schools must be well-equipped and able to accommodate smaller class sizes. In 1998, the American Society of Civil Engineers said that school buildings represent the nation’s most pressing infrastructure need. To address this critical need, Al Gore will fight to pass the Administration’s school construction initiative. This proposal would provide federal tax credits and other financial support as incentives to help states and local school districts to build and renovate public schools. Half of the bond authority will be allocated to the 100 school districts with the largest number of low-income children, and the other half will be allocated to the states.

    GoToCollege.com: Provide grants to high-need school districts so disadvantaged students can have subsidized access to Advanced Placement courses as well as SAT and achievement test preparation courses online.

    Reaffirm Commitment to IDEA: President Gore will reaffirm the importance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by making a substantial increased investment in this program, which ensures that children with disabilities have access to a free appropriate education and has opened the doors of public schools to children with special needs. His administration will help states and school districts provide high quality education for all students, including students with disabilities.

    Demand More from Our Students, Teachers, and Schools

    Higher Standards, Higher Pay for Teachers: This initiative would award competitive grants to high-poverty urban and rural school districts to help them attract and retain high-quality teachers and principals through better pay and higher standards. In order to receive funding, partnerships involving school districts, local businesses, and teacher's unions, would take aggressive steps to raise teacher standards and provide professional development and intensive support to help all teachers and principals succeed. Participating partnerships would agree on steps to reward good teaching, provide mentors for new teachers and principals, recruit talented new teachers, and adopt faster, but fair ways to identify, improve, and when necessary remove low performing teachers. School districts would require rigorous peer evaluations to identify potential master teachers, provide advice and extra help to all teachers, and identify those few who should be placed into a program to improve, or when necessary remove low-performing teachers. Under this proposal, all teachers in participating school districts would receive up to a $5,000 salary increase. Master teachers, reaching an advanced professional standard, would receive an additional $5,000 salary increase – for example, given to those who get advanced certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification or those who pass a rigorous peer evaluation demonstrating high-quality teaching based on clearly defined and objective standards. Al Gore believes that teachers should be treated and paid like professionals, and held to high professional standards. No teaching contract or license should provide a lifetime job guarantee, but we must provide all our teachers the intensive support and training needed to succeed.

    Raising Standards for All Students. Al Gore will fight to raise standards for all our students. As part of this effort, he will challenge all states to institute a high school exit exam and provide incentives to reward those states that adopt these tests. These exams would be developed by the state, and tied to state standards and accountability systems. Twenty six states now have high school exit exams. The Gore plan will also provide states a bonus for improved student achievement measured by NAEP.

    Keeping Kids in School: As President, Al Gore will challenge every state to raise their compulsory school age to 18 and provide matching grants to help those states that meet this challenge while adopting aggressive, proven strategies to prevent students from dropping out of school.

    Require Rigorous Tests For All New Teachers: According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, one of the most important factors in improving student achievement is the knowledge and skills teachers bring to the classroom. Yet numerous teachers teach subjects for which they lack adequate preparation, with fully one quarter of secondary school teachers lacking even a minor in their main teaching field. Students in schools with the highest levels of poverty, those who often need the most help from the best teachers, are most likely to be in classrooms with teachers who are not fully qualified: for example, in schools with the highest minority enrollment, students have a less than 50 percent chance of having a math or science teacher with a license and degree in the field. The Gore plan will require states, as a condition of receiving federal money, to test all new teachers for subject matter knowledge and teaching skills before they enter the classroom.

    Turning Around Failing Schools: Every state and every school district should be required to identify failing schools, and work to turn them around - with strict accountability for results, and strong incentives for success. And if these failing schools don't improve quickly, they should be shut down fairly and fast, and reopened under a new principal with a full peer evaluation of every teacher, intensive training for those who need it, and fair ways to improve or remove low-performing teachers. States and school districts that turn around failing schools should receive performance bonuses recognizing their achievements and rewarding their hard work. The Gore plan will also increase investment in after school to ensure that every student in a failing school has access to extra help.

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