President Challenges Nation To Promote Science And Math

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 16, 1998


Springbrook High School
Silver Spring, Maryland

11:26 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, let me welcome you allhere. Let me thank you for coming. Many have made an extraordinaryeffort to come from a long way away, and I thank you so much forthat.

I want to make some brief opening remarks and askSecretary Riley and Mr. Schmidt make some remarks, and then we'lljust begin the roundtable. And I want to hear from everyone beforewe go.

Earlier this month our country received a wake-up call.Our high school seniors ranked near the bottom in math and scienceachievement when compared with their peers around the world,according to the TIMSS test results. This must be a call to actionfor all of us. That's why I've asked some of America's topeducators, advocates, political and business leaders here today, tomobilize our schools to raise standards, demand accountability, andspecifically, to strengthen math and science education andperformance all across America.

A little over 40 years ago -- a lot of us are oldenough to remember when America got another wake-up call -- when theSoviets had just launched Sputnik and beat into space. ThenPresident Eisenhower said, if we were going to conquer the heavens wehad to strengthen math and science education here on Earth. Becausewe answered the call, in the years since we have landed on the moon,roved the surface of Mars, launched countless satellites that haverevolutionized the way we live, work and play here on Earth. Andwe're preparing to put the international space station into work.

The young people Eisenhower inspired are now fuelingAmerica's new economy. They work at NASA, at NIH, in high-tech labsin Silicon Valley, in Wall Street boardrooms, in classrooms allacross our nation. Now we have to strengthen math and scienceeducation for a new generation of Americans in the 21st century. Weknow that for our time we need a revolution in high standards,accountability, and rising expectations. We know the revolutionworks. A report released just today by the University of Minnesotahas found that charter schools are meeting and sometimes exceedingtheir promises to raise academic achievement. Now we have to spreadthese lessons throughout the educational system.

In our balanced budget I proposed a comprehensivestrategy to help make our schools the best in the world -- to havehigh national standards of academic achievement, national tests in4th grade reading and 8th grade math, strengthening math instructionin middle schools, providing smaller classes in the early grades sothat teachers can give students the attention they deserve, workingto hire more well-prepared and nationally certified teachers,modernizing our schools for the 21st century, supporting more charterschools, encouraging public school choice, ending social promotion,demanding greater accountability from students and teachers,principals and parents.

And we have to bring more mentors into our middleschools to inspire our students to prepare for college early. I ampleased that this strategy is already moving forward in many, manystates; that our nation's governors and state legislators of bothparties are choosing to make a solid commitment to boost education,to advocate high standards, and to take advantage of this era ofbudget surpluses and good times to make our schools better so thatwe'll have even better times in the future. We'll work hard withCongress to make sure this plan becomes a reality. I urge the Senateto take the first step by passing the proposals to modernize schoolsthis week.

In this era of fiscal discipline, we have to recognizethat government alone cannot do the job. We also have to mobilizeall other Americans in a concerted effort, especially let me say, onthe topic we're here today -- math and science education. Stateshave to make sure that every math and science teacher is qualified todo the job. We have to insist that they've majored in their subjectsin college.

Today nearly one of every five science teachers, morethan a quarter of all math teachers, more than half of all physicsteachers has neither majored in, nor minored in the subjects theyteach. The typical elementary and middle school teacher has takenjust three undergraduate math courses. We can, and we must, dobetter.

So I call on the states to require new math and scienceteachers to pass high-level competency tests in their subjects beforegetting licenced. The requirements must be vigorously enforced.School districts simply mustn't continue hiring people who don't meetthe standards. Students must challenge themselves and take the mostadvanced math and science courses they can. Again, this is a bigproblem. Among college-bound seniors, half have not taken physics ortrigonometry. Three-quarters very not taken calculus. Around theworld, middle students are learning algebra and geometry. Here athome, just a quarter of all students take algebra before high school.

Our children must not glide through school withoutgaining these important skills. Business has to help us get themessage out, too, so that they will hear that young people who studyand do well will do better in the future.

Today I want to say that later this year I intend toconvene a group of business leaders specifically to discuss ways thatthey can contribute to raising student performance across ourcountry. Universities can also help by strengthening their programsin math and science teaching so that more students will considerteaching as a career, and so that our newest teachers will be betterprepared than ever for the classrooms of the 21st century.

Finally, we need help from our parents, who shouldencourage and insist on teachers and students who do their best. Ithink it is profoundly important that parents keep up not only withthe progress of their children in the courses they're taking, butalso in whether they're taking the right courses.

If we all do our part, I'm convinced this is a challengethat we can clearly meet.

Q Mr. President, Kathleen Willey says that you madeunwanted sexual advances toward her, and that directly contradictsyour testimony. You can't both be telling the truth, can you?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know what she said,because I didn't see the interview last night. But I can tell youthis: Ever since this story came out months ago -- and as you know,the story has been in three different incarnations -- I have saidthat nothing improper happened. I told the truth then. I told thetruth in the deposition.

I am mystified and disappointed by this turn of events.But it's been out there for several months, as well as conflictingstories from people who have discussed it with her. So I -- you'llhave to find the answer to that riddle somewhere else. But I canjust tell you that I have done everything I could do to clarify thesituation. And I have a very clear memory of the meeting, and I toldthe truth.

Q Mr. President, do you stand by your -- deposition-- Paula Jones case? And should that serve as your explanation tothe American people of what went on --

THE PRESIDENT: I certainly stand by the deposition.

Q Will you make a further explanation to the Americanpeople, as you suggested you would when this story first broke?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I did suggest that, but that wasbefore the deposition was illegally released, and it basically statesmy position. Whether and what else will be said I think is somethingthat we'll have to deal with in the future, depending on howcircumstances unfold.

Q Mr. President, could I suggest that we geton with the important topic of what our children are going to bedoing in the next century in science and math? (Applause.)

What's New - March 1998

National Association of Attorneys

Medicare Commission Members

California Disaster Relief Efforts

Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training

Prime Minister of Thailand

First Woman Space Shuttle Commander

Irresponsible Tax Reform

School Safety Event

Health Care Commission Report

Unemployment at Lowest Level

Ratify NATO Enlargement

Promote Science And Math

Health Care For American Families

Springbrook High School

Quality Child Care

UN Secretary General Annan

Social Security Discussion

Irish Prime Minister Ahern

Targeted Medicare Expansion

Action To Reduce Drunk Driving

Violence Against Women

St. Patrick's Day Reception

Legislation Ensuring Food Safety

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