Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Secretary of Education Dick Riley, President of New American Schools Development Corporation David Kearns, Chairman of Coalition of Essential Schools Ted Sizer, Governor of Colorado Roy Romer and Governor of Illinois Jim Edgar

December 17, 1993

The Briefing Room

10:50 A.M. EST

MS. MYERS: The following will be a briefing on the Annenberg gift. Secretary Riley, Ted Sizer, who's chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools and the new Chairman of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and David Kearns, who's chairman of the New American Schools Development Corporation and former Under Secretary of Education during the Bush administration.

So, Secretary Riley.

SECRETARY RILEY: Thank you, Dee Dee. Why don't you all come on up, David Kearns and Ted Sizer. I think all of you are aware of the significance of the gift, and we would welcome questions at this time.

Q: What is it that somebody has to do in order to figure this out? What are the mechanics of the gift?

SECRETARY RILEY: The mechanics of the gift are -- David Kearns.

MR. KEARNS: Let me make a brief comment and then Ted might want to support that.

Q: Can you step to the microphone?

MR. KEARNS: The mechanics of this gift, I like to call it a challenge, which is an extraordinarily important part of this; second is that in the first pieces to the New American Schools and to the Annenberg Institute and to ECS at $50 million, $50 million and $15 million is part of this announcement. Also part of this announcement is a process that will be led by Vartan Gregorian to advise the ambassador and his aides on the details and the particulars, to respond to your question. And those will be by invitation.

Q: Mr. Secretary, would you be kind enough to lay out for us in very basic terms what this is about, so that we have it on camera? Can we hear you tell us what this is, again?

SECRETARY RILEY: Well, I would like for my colleagues here to go into the details of it. What I would say, though, is, it is $500 million that is going for the purpose of quality public education and it fits hand-in-glove with Goals 2000, which, of course, is designed to be the framework for a school-to-work transition for a safe schools act, for all of the reauthorizations of the elementary and secondary act, the research wing of the education party -- of the education department, OERI and all of the other -- like six major things happening this year in education.

This gift is absolutely, hand-in-glove, consistent with the work of the government, and it is a very exciting combination to show the importance and the power when you get the private sector and the public sector working together in tandem. And it's a very exciting time for that.

Q: Sir, do those -- the initial monies, do they go to three individual organizations and then there will be another announcement of other organizations that could get money?

SECRETARY RILEY: That's right. Why don't -- Ted, do you want to speak to that?

MR. SIZER: Yes. The three organizations which receive these first monies are the New American Schools Development Corporation, which has nine design teams coming up and testing, they're in the field testing stage, plans for new, as they say, break-the-mold schools.

The second grant is to firmly establish through endowment the now called Annenberg National Institute for School Reform, which is at Brown University. It builds on the work of the Coalition of Essential Schools and the initial alliances that have been made.

The focus of the Annenberg Institute is on schools and on teachers and students and the ideas that bring them together. The task that we all have in the next six months is to develop a plan to present to the Annenberg Foundation which puts together alliances of people and organizations which focus on the fundamental rethinking and reshaping at the school level where we particularly complement state and federal initiatives is the focus that Mr. Annenberg wishes on schools in particular communities, school by school by school, teacher by teacher, student by student. And the way that we can somehow get the profound ratcheting up of reform is going to be through alliances all across the country, and it is very difficult and, to me a very exciting task, to be part in the next six months of seeing how all of this can come together.

Q: Specifically, what are those events amounts again that go to the three individual ones, and will there be more?

MR. SIZER: Fifty million to the New American Schools Development Corporation to complete its design and development work. Fifty million to Brown University to firmly establish what is now called the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. This builds on the 10 years of work of the Coalition of Essential Schools. But the Institute will go far beyond that.

Fifteen million to the education commission of the states in association with the New American Schools Development Corporation and the Annenberg Institute to join with the governors and other state officials to spread into the states and the communities the designs of the New American Schools Development Corporation and others.

Q: Will the Institute for School Reform give the grants for the $400 million that's going to be coming later? Is that going to come from the Annenberg Foundation?

MR. SIZER: No. Vartan Gregorian, the President of Brown, is a longtime friend and advisor of Mr. and Mrs. Annenbergs. We will, and others will put together over the next months ideas to present to the Annenberg Foundation.

Q: So the Foundation will be making those grants for the next five years?

MR. SIZER: That is correct. But we are not -- we are not a foundation. We are, by invitation, working through a set of ideas that are consistent with Mr. Annenberg's focus on communities and neighborhoods and schools and which dovetails tightly in alliances like-minded groups and state and federal initiatives.

Q: Professor, why do American school kids need breakthe -mold schools? Why do they need reform, and why do they need $500 million?

MR. SIZER: There is overwhelming evidence that we --our standards for our students and ourselves are not high enough. And even the relatively mediocre and sloppily defined standards that we have are not met.

There is abundant evidence that large numbers of your youngsters find school, in many cases, the only sanctuary they have. They're growing up in violence and fear, and the extent to which they are fearful is the extent to which they won't learn well. And they deserve better, both in the sense of higher standards and the way of meeting those standards in a decent fashion; and at the same time a setting in those communities which makes schools those sanctuaries.

Q: How will this money manifest itself in the schools themselves, and by when?

MR. SIZER: That remains to be worked out. It's certainly the intention of Ambassador Annenberg is that the monies will leverage -- will leverage other monies. But even more importantly, political and moral support in the communities -- again, community by community by community. The intention is over -- in answer to your timing question, would be over a five-year period.

Q: Is there any need for those funds to be matched? Is there any requirement for that?

MR. SIZER: It is Mr. Annenberg's intention that they be matched.

Q: But there's no requirement.

MR. SIZER: There is no specificity yet assigned for any portion of what -- steps ahead. In the case of the two major grants, these are made in acknowledgement of the over $50 million in each case raised on behalf of school reform.

Q: Mr. Secretary, were you, personally, or was the Department of Education involved in deciding who would receive these grants?

SECRETARY RILEY: No, we have been in lengthy discussions about the possibilities, the fact that Ambassador Annenberg was contemplating doing something major for public schools, which was exciting to me and Mr. Kearns and others, and I have had numerous conversations about that. But I was not involved in the circle of advisors with the Ambassador that made the decision on what to do.

I did know and really discussed with him his great interest in K through 12 education. He is absolutely convinced, and I think he is absolutely right, that that is a very, very important thing for our future, and he wanted to center his attention in to that part of the educational life of this country.

Q: If you could tell us please, in your own words, what you think is wrong with the American public school system?

SECRETARY RILEY: Well, the fragmentation of the results of the American school system is clear. Some parts of it work very well, some parts of it mediocre, some parts of it poorly, work. The interest in comprehensive reform in -- all of that being driven by high academic standards is coming to a channeling of interest that is very exciting. And you see it in this gift. You see it in all of the legislation that I mentioned, Goals 2000, school-to-work, safe schools, and so forth.

So, yes, there are plenty of examples of schools where standards as Ted Sizer indicated are not met and not driving the system in many, many ways that we can improve that. One interesting thing about Ted Sizer's work is that he's in there in the schools, high schools, middle schools making them work better. And these design teams that David Kearns' group will be getting further into -- that's very exciting work.

They have nine -- isn't it, David --

MR. KEARNS: Yes, sir.

MR. SIZER: -- design teams that really are the best education people around putting together the design for the best possible school organization and workable education plan. That's going to fit so well with Goals 200, which will require, then, an action plan from each state, in each school district, and each school, planning how they are going to get into this education reform movement, and it is developing into that. So much work is going on in many states right now, and this fits right into it and picks it right up. And I do think it's exciting to see what's happening.

MS. MYERS: Let me just say there's time for one more question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'll bet there are school boards all over the country this morning asking themselves how they can get a piece of the remaining $385 million. How do they do it?

SECRETARY RILEY: Well, the -- MR. KEARNS: I'll take a crack and let Ted do that, too. MR. SIZER: No. Be my guest. (Laughter.) MR. KEARNS: We know that's the key question. It'll be

by invitation. It'll be the process that Ted Sizer just outlined. And that is that, Gregorian, leading the advisory group to the foundation over the next six months to lay that detail out, but by invitation, and that it'll be unified. We don't really expect them to be disparate types of things here and there. But this will be on an overall unified basis with impact at the community level and the school level and working closely with the states, with governors, and their activities on, the what President called replication; I like to scale-up -- of going from hundreds of schools to thousands and thousands of schools.

Q: What do you mean "invitation" --

MR. KEARNS: Helen, just that -- that as the strategy unfolds, that we would go to groups and work with them, not sitting back trying to answer that question that the school puts -- 15,000 school boards around the country saying, how do I get into the honeypot? And the answer is that he honeypot's back here and it's going to be working and working with groups around the country, and one of them is going to be working with the governors.

Q: Are you saying, don't call us, we'll call you?

Q: Mr. Secretary, some might say that this represents a failure of government. Here is the White House everyone's agreeing the schools need help. And a billionaire has stepped in to bail us out. Isn't that a failure of government?

SECRETARY RILEY: No, it's not a failure of government. We have great needs in the public schools. And that's not a secret at all. And this is a coming together. And it is -- it's what's made this country great. When you have private folks that are interested in taking what they've accumulated and putting it for the public good. And that's what this is, and it's a great day, and it will leveraged out, because other people will see how important it is if we could have other foundations and people moving in this direction.

Let me say that Governor Romer and Governor Edgar are here. I think we're about ended up, but if you all have a question for one of them, it might be well -- I'm sure they'd be --

Q: Are the states going to leverage some of the money? I just wondered what the states are going to do, and if they're going to leverage or challenge, or give some of the money to get some of the money -- $385 million?

GOVERNOR ROMER: You need to know -- excuse me, I'm Governor Romer, who is the incoming Chair of ECS, and Governor Jim Edgar is the current Chair of ECS. It's one of the recipients -- $15 million. The first thing you need to lay out here is that there is a lot going on in these states now, and we need to have additional assistance. This $500 million is great momentum. And let me just address one piece and turn it to Governor Edgar.

What kind of failure we have out there? This nation has simply not focused upon the need for change, the need for enrichment, the need for greater performance in public education as we have in telecommunications and autos and airlines and other matters. We have a very rapidly changing world that requires great deal more skill and we need to gear up our performance.

This is happening in very -- places that we are not scaled up. And I think what this grant is aimed at is to take the great ideas that are acting out there incrementally and say, how can we turn this into a more uniform movement. And it's not all that difficult. We know what the answers are, we just simply haven't got ourselves motivated -- and I underscore that in this nation -- motivated yet and organized yet to put this as a high priority.

Let me ask my colleague, Jim Edgar, to comment on that.

GOVERNOR EDGAR: Let me, first of all, education commissions of the states are very excited about this grant because this will allow not just the ECS, but the entire education reform movement to do things we wouldn't be able to do otherwise. This money won't come in lieu of state dollars or local dollars, this will complement what is already being done. But to bring about the reforms that are needed, it takes both a partnership between government and the private sector, and we're very appreciative of the Ambassador's very generous contribution.

Let me just reiterate, I think if there's nothing else that come out of this, the reforms -- what needs to be done, a lot of those things are already being done in isolated cases throughout our education system. What we have to do is make it system-wide. And this grant will help up to see -- we move from school to school and make it system-wide throughout all the schools in this nation, and that's extremely important, so all the young people will have the same opportunity.

Secondly, we have to remember -- somebody raised -- is this a failure of government, a failure of the school system. Times have changed. Listening to the Ambassador's concern about safety for schoolchildren; you're not going to provide safety for schoolchildren if you just concentrate just in the classroom. We have to take a look at the entire environment that surrounds these young people that go to school. And that's, again, an important reform that underway in many states. But this grant will allow us to see that spread nationwide.

So again, it's not so much we have to reinvent the wheel, what we've got to make sure is that we get the wheel out there for all the automobiles.

Q: Do you see the states plotting up the money and that's about the way you would handle it?

GOVERNOR EDGAR: No, I don't see it that way at all. As I think was indicated, they're going to take these dollars and work with projects that have real promise. But the goal has to be how you take those pilot projects and expand it system-wide.

That's particularly what's ECS is going to be involved in. There's a lot of exciting positive things going on in education in this country. It doesn't make it on the evening news very often. We usually hear the negatives, but there's a lot of positive things. We have to take those positive things and make them system-wide. And we believe this grant will help us do a much better job of that than we're able to do with our current limited resources throughout the 50 states.

GOVERNOR ROMER: Can I give you an illustration? This is a concrete illustration. One of the things some of this money is going to be aimed at is professional development in teachers. We all know that if we're really going to change this system, we have to change the capacity of those who are in the classroom. Now, how do you get that done? There needs to be a very much more effective linkage between higher education and the public school system in the retraining and continuous training of teachers.

Now, it leads to an institutional reform, also. It's not just more money. If you look at any teacher contract in America, they have a base salary which they get increments on it by the number of hours they get in continuing education. But nobody has taken the time or the policy of tying those hours to saying, you need improvement in these specific areas in order to teach to the new standard.

Q: Like what?


Q: Like what? Handling --

GOVERNOR ROMER: Like math. If you're a fifth-grade teacher in math, and your salary is scheduled to increase because you're taking additional hours, then it ought to be scheduled and aimed at increasing your capacity to teach to the new math standards published by the National Council of Teachers of Math. That's an institutional reform. But those are the kind of specific kinds of policies that I think will be affected by the insertion of this money.

Q: How about handling violence in the classroom? What would be good about that?

GOVERNOR EDGAR: Well, part of that goes back -- you're not going to solve violence in the classroom unless you begin to solve the violence in society, in general, and in the communities those children come from.

And I think too often we think we're going to just fix schools by just doing something in the classroom. That's part of it, but we also have to see how we better coordinate our efforts from our social service agencies with our educational institutions. So, again, we're not going out and necessarily reinvent the wheel, we just got to make sure it is coordinated and it happens all over. And violence is a classic example that you're going to have to do some things in the surrounding environment of that school if you're going to see a really proper environment in the classroom for students to learn.

Q: Does this money go toward violence in the communities as well, in any way?

GOVERNOR EDGAR: This money is going to look at what they need to do to improve education in the schools. I would expect that that won't be limited just in what happens in the classroom. However, again, it was mentioned only $115 million has been allocated as of today. The other $385 million will come about as these gentlemen look at what needs to be the priority, and take suggestions and look at what's going on out there.

I would think that whenever you talk about improving schools, particularly in the inner city, you have to talk about more community involvement, more parental involvement. And I think that would also carry over to the problem of violence.

Q: Is there any expectation that some of the $385 million might be used to endow some of the private nonprofits that are working in support of education reform, like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, or Teach for America or other nonprofits like that?

MR. SIZER: Of course, those -- I can't answer that question. However, Mr. Annenberg wants action, and he wants the action to be where the youngsters and their parents and the teachers are. And if the question, for example, in some community is frightening violence, the way that community addresses it is what he's interested in. For example, smaller schools, where the youngsters are known. A lot of kids get into gangs because they have no other group to which to cleave. There is a lot of evidence small schools, which are stable, where there is great authority in these small units, have a positive effect on an otherwise exceedingly difficult situation. That's just an example.

MS. MYERS: I think we need to end it here. These gentlemen are due at the Willard, so if you --

Q: I know, but just before they walk out the door -- Forgive me for being a little dense this morning; I blame it on the American educational system. I still don't quite understand exactly what it is that Walter Annenberg has done. And, frankly, if I don't, I'm certainly not going to be able to tell the average parent of a schoolchild out in America what he's done. I haven't heard a succinct description yet of exactly what it is. I've heard a lot of pieces.

GOVERNOR ROMER: Of what Mr. Annenberg has done? Let me give you a summary of it. He has committed to give $500 million over five years. He's identified $115 million this morning. And he is aiming at the change agents in American education. And he's picked out some of the most successful -- Ted Sizer, New American Schools, and ECS and others. He's saying, use this $500 million to lever this system. Make it change, and make it change rapidly. But he's also saying, there are certain philosophies that I'm buying into, and he would not have identified with Ted Sizer had he not known that what really needs to happen is that we need to create a better atmosphere in which a student can learn. And all of these changes are aimed at that.

Q: The challenges to do the work; It's not a challenge grant in the sense that he raise more --

GOVERNOR EDGAR: No, it's not a challenge -- the challenge is to all of America. As like the President said, here is a private individual who put $500 million on the table; now, what are we going to respond as a country. And, you see, there are many, many elements of this change and this reform. But we know that there are successful experiments in anecdotal form.

Our challenge is to move them into a crescendo of action and particularly make systemic change in policy. This is the critical thing. You can get a very good experiment out there working, but the bureaucracy crushes it because it does not change. It does not change its systemic way of doing business. And I think Mr. Annenberg was very insightful in the way in which he went to some of the most effective change agents in America and says, I'm going to give you more horsepower to get this done, go do it.

Q: The matching money comes in -- the first $115 million doesn't have to be matched, right?

GOVERNOR EDGAR: In a sense it's already been matched.

Q: It's already been matched. And the -- we don't know the specifics of whether it's to be matched or not --

GOVERNOR EDGAR: That's correct.

Q: And, very concretely, this would be used for programs, studies, individual schools? I mean, again, that concrete information -- could you just give us very quickly examines -- programs, what exactly does it fund?

MR. SIZER: The framework which has been laid out, which is part of the press kit -- I don't know if you got the press kit.

Q: No, there don't appear to be any.

Q: No. That's why some of these questions are coming up. Sorry.

MR. SIZER: Well, then I won't give the exam because the material was not handed out. (Laughter.) It's a fundamental focus on individual schools. There's an assumption that those schools know best, with the help of outsiders, what they need -- each school, one by one. And that school and its community -- its community and its neighborhood, its city, has to define a plan which makes sense for the setting there and which is responsive to significantly higher standards.

But the schools have to be warm and protective places. They have to be places where the youngsters feel safe. And that's another kind of standard. Now, how that takes place has got to be figured out by folks there. So it's a very difficult kind of task because it's going to be community by community by community. And each community has to find its own way against some kinds of standards. It's the kind of thing that Governor Romer was talking to me this morning about his attempt in the state of Colorado to address the questions of violence.

Now, how to do this -- how to do this block-by-block, school-by-school reform, and at the same time have a system surrounding it -- a bureaucratic and policy system surrounding it which supports rather than inhibits those reforms -- is not something that's going to be quickly or easily solved for two reasons: One is it's complicated; and the second is, there's a long experience in this country of doing it the other way around.

And what we have -- the task we have from Mr. Annenberg is to focus on those communities, but move with as much possible speed to solve these problems of the context so that we can do -- we can move forward in a coherent way.

It is difficult to describe because there's no model. The commitment is to the individual community.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END11:25 A.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of Education Dick Riley, President of New American Schools Development Corporation David Kearns, Chairman of Coalition of Essential Schools Ted Sizer, Governor of Colorado Roy Romer and Governor of Illinois Jim Edgar Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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