|GORE'S EDUCATION RECORD|
July 7 , 2000
Betty Ann Bowser examines the education record of Vice President Al Gore, the likely Democratic presidential nominee.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When you've been governor of a big state like Texas for five years, there is much you can say about your record on education. That's because governors can and do much to influence how money is spent on public schools and how educational policy is carried out. But if you've been Vice President of the United States for the past seven years it's more difficult to amass a record of specific accomplishments in the area of education because the federal government has so little power over how public schools are run. In fact, schools get only about 7 percent of all their money from Washington. The lion's share comes from the state and local sources. But as Vice President and as now as presidential candidate, Al Gore has set forth a tone and a philosophy on education.
AL GORE: We need to make each teacher more productive and we can by making creative use of the Internet and the associated technologies.
|Education and the Internet|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Internet and access to it are at the top of the Vice President's educational priorities.
TEACHER: (talking to student) You copied that information from Microsoft Word, and you're going to paste that into your brochure now?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Vice President has been a strong proponent of programs like this one at Forest Hill High School in Baltimore, Maryland. This spring students designed mock business brochures and Web sites.
TEACHER: (talking to student) Okay, that looks good.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Four years ago this would have been an unlikely scene at this inner city public school. But thanks to the federal money that paid for the Internet connections and some of the computers almost all of the students here spend a portion of every day in the computer lab during the regular school year.
STUDENT: I was trying to think of a way to spice that page up.
FAITH McKEITHEN: Pump it up.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Teacher Faith McKeithen says it not only made kids more excited to come to school but it has expanded their goals for life after graduation.
FAITH McKEITHEN: They can work in the advertising field. They can work for companies that do publishing and publications. They already do brochures and fliers for their churches and organizations. They come back and they want to work in the lab and do those things. So there are skills they have developed already that are useful.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Some of the money came from a 1996 federal program championed by Vice-president Gore.
AL GORE: Children from low-income families are much less likely to be using computers at home, to be connected to the Internet at home. And I have advocated to remedy that problem -- subsidize the connection of every classroom to the Internet.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Under the $1.6 billion program eighty thousand schools have so far been connected to the Internet. Gore has a long history of supporting education technology. As a member of Congress in the 1980s and early 90s, he sponsored bills to encourage educational software development, a research network to link teachers, and a program to foster distance learning classes. But Amy Wilkins from the Education Trust, a non-profit education organization says -- while Gore's policies have provided hardware and software -- not enough money has been put forth to adequately train teachers on computers in poor schools.
AMY WILKINS: Affluent kids are doing all kinds of very rich and robust stuff on computers. You know, they're stimulating, they're doing simulations of marine life, they're doing mapping. They're doing all of this sort of interesting stuff that really stretches them. When you look at how computers are used in schools serving low-income kids, they're essentially doing worksheets, but instead of filling in the little circle with a pencil, they're filling it in with a mouse to click in -- and you have to take that back again to teacher training.
TEACHER: How we doing here -- everybody getting there?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: McKeithen admits that initially teachers didn't have enough training but she says that's starting to change. Teachers at her school routinely sign up for after school training courses like this one to become more computer-savvy.
FAITH McKEITHEN: In the beginning we were novices, the teachers were novices at dealing with the technology so that if a computer wasn't turning on, we only knew to call help. But now we're learning how to use the technology more efficiently, and it translates into our being able to help the children.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Computers aren't the only thing that the administration has added to classrooms nationwide.
|Hiring 100,000 new teachers|
AL GORE: We've begun hiring 100,000 new teachers to reduce class size and we're insisting that every new teacher hired under that program be fully qualified.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Reducing class size by recruiting new teachers is another initiative launched by the Clinton-Gore administration. To date, thirty-two thousand new teachers have actually been hired.
TEACHER: Are these drawings perfect? No! You know what -- they're not. You really can't mess up when you're drawing -- when you're doing art.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The initiative has meant that second grade teachers like Christie Sens have been able to cut classes nearly in half. Sens teaches at Bailey's Elementary School just outside of Washington, DC.
CHRISTIE SENS: When I had 28 children, everybody was in a large group for reading and for writing so I could meet with them maybe once a week. Even the kids who really needed to be read with every day, I couldn't, because there were too many children to manage -- there just wasn't enough time. With sixteen children I can really read with everybody everyday so I know exactly where they are from one day to the next. And what I plan for the next day is based on what I see them doing today.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Some critics have questioned whether smaller class size really means kids get a better education. Most of the research is inconclusive, although several studies have indicated that reduced class size does help improve the education for economically disadvantaged students. But Linda Chavez a former Reagan administration official and head of the Center For Equal Opportunity says there's a bigger problem with the whole notion of trying to quickly hire one hundred thousand new teachers -- and that is -- will they be qualified?
LINDA CHAVEZ: There's no guarantee that those teachers are really going to be able to replace the kind of journeymen teachers who've been there with twenty years of experience or more. And there's no guarantee that they're going to stay in the classroom. And there's no guarantee that you're going to deal with what is a very significant problem, and that is the poor quality of teachers who are already in the classroom. And this is a real problem for the Clinton-Gore administration. They are so closely tied to the teachers unions. About a quarter to a third of the delegates to the Democratic Convention are members of the teachers union. Those kinds of ties make it very difficult for them to do anything to try to improve the quality of teaching.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association -- the nation's largest teachers' union -- takes sharp exception to that.
BOB CHASE: This administration and Vice President Gore have been speaking out and promoting and doing things to enhance the quality of teaching -- to enable us to get better quality professional development programs, by enabling us to attract the best and the brightest in the profession. All of those things are extraordinarily important and have a positive impact on students.
STUDENT: Is the pull of gravity stronger, or is it weaker?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Gore advisors say that one of the reasons the administration has been so successful with education reform is because it hasn't been tied to any interest group. Bill Galston is Gore's education advisor.
BILL GALSTON: The President and Vice President have broken with the orthodoxy of the past and said we need standards; we need not only higher performance from students but also higher performance for teachers. And we believe that money ought to be tied to results. That was not the message that many of our friends wanted to hear.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: One of the most widespread initiatives of the Clinton-Gore administration was passage of the Goals 2000 bill in 1994.
AL GORE: We have seen some positive changes in our schools in recent years, greater accountability, and local officials taking tough action to turn around their schools. We're fighting right now to raise standards higher still and hold our schools accountable for real results, ending social promotion the right way.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Goals 2000 was actually an extension of work begun by President George Bush in 1988 when he convened an education summit with the nation's governors including then-Governor Clinton. The bill laid out specific national education goals but gave the 50 states the flexibility to implement them in their own manner. Patricia Morris Welch is the dean of education studies at Morgan State University and is also a commissioner for the Baltimore City public schools. She says Goals 2000 has helped foster much-needed change for schools in Maryland.
PATRICIA MORRIS WELCH: We have made it our mandate, we've made it our charge to increase good quality education for all children. Now we're talking about holding parents accountable. We're talking about holding teachers, administrators, central office, boards of education. If you say that you are interested in the education of our children, prove it.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Goals 2000 also increased school funding to the states by $400 million. Wilkins says that money was much needed but she criticizes the administration for not holding the states more accountable.
AMY WILKINS: They weren't tough enough on the states in demanding in exchange for this investment -- big investment of federal funds -- weren't tough enough in demanding that states really show improvement for low income kids; weren't tough enough in demanding a real closing of the achievement gap between low income kids and more affluent kids and between kids of color and white kids; they just haven't demanded enough.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But Vice President Gore says the administration has not only made schools accountable it has fostered the growth of charter schools.
AL GORE: We passed a law that guarantees children stuck in a failing school the choice of a better public school, and we're going to expand that. We've gone from one charter school in the entire United States of America back in 1993 to 1,700 innovative charter schools now run by parents and teachers all over the country.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Clinton-Gore administration has also expanded
funding for Head Start, a
GARY ORFIELD: Only 5% of federal money goes to high schools. And the high schools are the true catastrophes in low-income districts. We need to figure out how to help them. We know something about preschools and we know something about the early elementary grades. A lot of our politics are based on the thought that you can inoculate the child against ignorance at preschool or first grade and then everything will work out. That's not true if the kid goes to a bad middle school or dysfunctional high school.
|Education spending and scholarships|
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But Gore advisors point to a number of middle and high school initiatives spear-headed by the Vice President including after school activities and violence reduction programs. One of the initiatives that the administration was unable to get passed in Congress was money to modernize 6,000 school buildings nationwide.
AL GORE: You know, I've been to schools all over this country where the playgrounds and athletic fields are all gone because they're covered up with portable classrooms, trailers. I've been in school facilities where there are holes in the wall and the ceiling's falling down.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Gore has promised that if he's elected president, he'll get the money needed to improve those schools. The other major initiative the administration did put in place involves increasing access to higher education.
AL GORE: 67% of high school graduates now go on to college -- that's a 10 percent increase in the last seven years. The Hope Scholarship and the other new aid have made a big difference.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Hope Scholarship program gives students' families an additional $1500 a year tax credit for college tuition. So far over 4 million families have taken advantage of it. Wilkins said it's good at helping middle class students but does nothing for the disadvantaged.
AMY WILKINS: The poorest of the poor families, the families who most desperately needs help in sending their kids to college are so poor that they don't pay federal taxes and so a tax credit is useless to them.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But Dean Welch says the administration has sponsored a separate program called "Gear Up" to help precisely those people.
PATRICIA MORRIS WELCH: It's a program that is targeted at sixth grade students in middle schools, following them through high school, getting them ready for college. So this says to those parents, those members of the community who never really thought college, who thought that this is not something that I can do and provide for my children -- yes, you can.
TEACHER: Okay. Let's turn to page 495.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Perhaps more than any one individual program, Welch thinks the administration's biggest accomplishment has been to elevate education as an issue.
PATRICIA MORRIS WELCH: I believe the Clinton-Gore administration has really put education on the front burner -- I really do. I believe that education now is a household topic. I think people probably sit around their dinner table talking about vouchers, talking about technology in schools, talking about what makes a good teacher, talking about the use of textbooks and good teaching strategies. And I believe the Clinton-Gore administration has been very significant in making that happen because of the priority that administration has put on education.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Wilkins agrees that the administration has talked more and spent more on education than previous administrations, but...
AMY WILKINS: I think that when you kind of look at the record of this administration, it's been a record about quantity. It's been about how much money, how many teachers, how many computers. Where this administration has fallen down is on the quality issue. You know, it should be more about the quality of learning and the standards to which students rise. This administration has been about sort of counting things.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: On the campaign trail, Gore concedes there is still much to be done in raising educational standards but he says over the last seven years, the administration has vastly improved the nation's public schools.