NATIONAL EDUCATION SUMMIT
MARCH 27, 1996
Elizabeth Brackett, of WTTW in Chicago, reports on efforts by politicians, business people and educators to better prepare students to compete in tomorrow's job market.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Forty-one governors, mostly Republican, gathered yesterday at the second National Education Summit. Some of the governors at the summit spoke about what they hoped to accomplish.
GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON, Wisconsin: We need to say to those individual students if we raise the bar higher in math and in science and in history and in spelling and in reading and in writing, we think that you can learn more and do better, and you will be able to compete more favorably internationally than we have in the past.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The first National Education Summit was held six years ago, that one called by President George Bush and attended by the nation's governors, then mostly Democratic. The conference spurred a movement to build a national system of standards which President Bush called national education goals.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: I hope that you will join me to define national goals in education for the first time. From this day forward let us be an America of tougher standards, of higher goals, and a land of bigger dreams. And our goals--(applause)--our goals must be national, not federal. And that's why I welcome the initiatives of the National Governors Association.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Those goals renamed Goals 2000 were later signed into law by President Clinton, who as governor was an important player in the 1989 summit.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: What this Goal 2000 bill does, believe it or not, for the first time in the entire history of the United States of America is to set world class education standards for what every child in every American school should know in order to win when he or she becomes an adult. We have never done it before. We are going to do it now because of this bill.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: There have been some bright spots in education over the past decade. Graduation rates are up, and the number of students taking a core of academic subjects increased from 13 percent to 47 percent. But there's still cause for concern. In 1994, only a third of 12th grade students could master rigorous reading passages. Only 11 percent showed a strong grasp of history, and standards of U.S. schools pale in comparison to those of other industrialized nations. Christie McElhimny says the first summit's goals may have been too ambitious. She's with the Education Commission of the States, a non-profit organization formed to help governors and state legislators develop policies to improve education.
CHRISTIE McELHINNEY, Education Commission of the States: I do believe that the first summit has had some positive impact. Certainly, it made education a top issue. It made people aware that it was a priority for our leaders. People will say, has there been enough change as a result of that, and I think most people will agree that the answer is no. There has been some change, and it's all been positive, but they're not anywhere close to reaching many of the goals that they set in 1989.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: And that lack of achievement in the nation's schools is what worries some of the CEO's at this conference. Many of the CEO's expressed concern over lack of basic skills in schools.
LOUIS V. GERSTNER, JR., CEO, IBM: And we have all taken the time to come here to do something about one national priority that rises above all the others, fixing America's public education system. 80 percent of America's eighth graders cannot calculate fractions, decimals, or percentages with consistent accuracy.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT: President Clinton, the keynote speaker of this year's conference, acknowledged the problem and challenged the nation's educators and lawmakers to do better.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (Today) I also believe, along with Mr. Gerstner and the others who are here, that it's very important not only for businesses to speak out for reform but for business leaders to be knowledgeable enough to know what reform to speak out for, and how--what to emphasize and how to hammer home the case for higher standards, as well as how to hope local school districts change some of the things that they're now doing so that they have a reasonable attempt, a chance at meeting these standards.