Aspiring teachers and a smattering of government luminaries gathered yesterday evening at the John F. Kennedy School of Government's ARCO Forum to hear Secretary of Education Richard Riley outline the Clinton Administration's plan to reform education.
Riley's address came at the end of a day-long tribute to David Kearns, Deputy Secretary of Education under President Bush.
Riley opened his speech by paying tribute to Kearns, whose work has included projects on the raising of academic standards and Goals 2000, a plan which would bring one million new teachers into American schools by the year 2000.
Riley then proceeded to sketch out President Clinton's second-term program for bringing national education into the Twenty-first Century.
Riley mentioned eight key points in improving education nationwide.
Of greatest importance, according to Riley, "is improving early childhood learning through experiences learned and developed in the home."
"A child's most influential mentors that it will ever have are its parents," he said.
Riley said that if parents read with their children for 30 minutes a day or sang evening lullabies to infants, national education would take a "great leap forward."
After educating parents, Riley said the administration should work for accountability and higher standards in public schools. This initiative includes a push to make sure teachers are knowledgeable in their assigned areas.
"One of the worst aspects of American education is too many teachers instructing classes out-of-field," Riley said.
"Barely more than 50% of all high-school mathematics teachers have either majored or minored in math. Now I am sure they do an admirable job, but we have to find more people to teach these subject areas," he added.
In response to this problem, Riley said the Clinton administration proposes increasing the number of elementary and secondary school teachers by 100,000 over the next seven years.
"And we'll pay for these new plans with a huge payoff from a tobacco [lawsuit] settlement," Riley said. "Soon our kids will have a little more Shakespeare in their blood and no more of the nicotine from tobacco."
Riley also spoke about community centers, basic learning, and college preparation for at-risk youths.
Through new nationally supported, state-directed tutoring programs, he said his administration wants to fund a program of bringing one million tutors to poorer schools.
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