A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

U.S. Department of Education Strategic Plan, 1998-2002 - September 1997

Goal 1. Help all students reach challenging academic standards so that they are prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.

Key Outcome Indicators for Elementary and Secondary Education

(These indicators are cross-cutting and apply to many or all objectives in Goals 1 and 2).

  1. Increasing percentages of all students will meet or exceed basic, proficient, and advanced performance levels in national and state assessments of reading, math, and other core subjects.

  2. Students in high-poverty schools will show continuous improvement in achieving proficiency levels comparable to those for the nation.

  3. High school attendance and graduation rates will continually improve-particularly in high-poverty schools and among students with disabilities and others at risk of school failure.

  4. The proportion of high school graduates, including vocational concentrators, who complete at least three years of science and three years of math will increase 10% between 1996 and 2000.

  5. Increasing numbers of high school students will successfully complete advanced placement courses each year.

  6. Students in high-poverty schools will show comparable increases in completion of challenging course work--including advanced placement courses--that will enable them to pursue higher education or other options.

  7. Increasing percentages of high school graduates will successfully transition into employment, further education, or the military.

The federal government has an important but limited role to play in education reform. Federal support seeks to help states and local communities strengthen schools and improve the educational performance for all children, so that the nation can meet the economic and social challenges of the 21st century.

The key to improving student performance is comprehensive and sustained education reform. States and communities--not the federal government--are developing and implementing challenging academic standards for every child to meet, to ensure that all children know that their schools and communities have high expectations for their academic performance. To further support student academic success, state school-to-work systems place learning in the meaningful context of the world of work and encourage students to prepare for postsecondary education and high-skill employment.

An environment conducive to learning is also important. To learn, students must have schools that are safe and orderly and promote positive values. Essential to high-quality learning are talented and dedicated teachers. In addition, teachers and students need access to advanced technology that assists instruction and helps students develop skills they will need for work and further education.

To achieve effective education reform that meets the needs of all students, everyone must be involved--students; parents; educational leaders at the school, district, and state levels; community members, businesses, and religious groups; and government at all levels.

Use of Evaluations and Assessments in Developing Goal 1

Objectives, Indicators, and Strategies

Objective 1.1: States develop and implement challenging standards and assessments for all students in the core academic subjects.

Performance Indicators:

  1. By the end of the 1997-98 school year, all states will have challenging content and performance standards in place for two or more core subjects.
  2. By 2001 all states will have assessments aligned to challenging content and performance standards for two or more core subjects.
  3. By 2002 increasing percentages of the general public and parents will be aware of the importance of challenging academic standards for all children, including at least the majority of parents from low-income families.

Support for standards-based reform has deepened over the past six years and is now part of almost all state plans for education reform. The support for standards that came initially from subject matter experts and professional associations has broadened to include state policymakers, business leaders, and community coalitions. Even so, considerable work needs to be done to move from understanding standards to implementing them in the classroom.

Changing instruction and curricula will require even greater effort over the next five years than meeting the original challenge of developing support for the concept of standards. Survey results and other sources indicate that developing assessments and related student performance standards, improving professional development programs, and linking accountability to school and student performance may be the most effective policy levers for the Department. The federal government can assist by providing support and guidance on challenging standards and assessments, and by offering highly focused, voluntary national tests that can serve as benchmarks for parents and communities.

Core Strategies:

Objective 1.2: Every state has a school-to-work system that increases student achievement , improves technical skills, and broadens career opportunities for all.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Increasing percentages of high school graduates from school-to-work systems or from vocational concentrations will successfully transition into employment, further education, or the military.
  2. Increasing percentages of employers will be highly satisfied with the productivity and work-readiness skills of graduates from school-to-work systems or vocational concentrations.
  3. By fall 2000, the percentage of high school students passing industry-recognized tests on technical skills will increase by at least 10%.
  4. Two million youth will be engaged actively in school-to-work systems by fall 2000.
  5. By 2000 an increasing percentage of secondary schools will provide opportunities for students to achieve industry-recognized skill standards.
  6. Thirty percent of high schools will have key school-to-work system components in place by fall 2000.
  7. All youths with disabilities age 14 and older will have IEPs that include a statement of transition service needs that will help focus on courses of study.

Researchers, educators, employers, and policymakers have sought ways to make education relevant to students' future careers, adapt instruction to the ways in which students learn best, and ensure that students learn the habits and skills that employers value. By adding meaningful context from the world of work, educators hope to engage the interest and intellect of students and help them learn more effectively. Whether learning by doing and in context is accomplished at school or in a work setting, school-to-work systems (STW) seek to improve career prospects and academic achievement in high school--and thereby boost enrollment in postsecondary education and increase the likelihood of obtaining high-skill, high-wage employment.

Core Strategies:

Objective 1.3: Schools are safe, disciplined, and drug-free.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Recent increasing rates of alcohol and drug use (alcohol, marijuana, tobacco) among school-age children will slow and begin to fall by 2000.
  2. Rates of alcohol and drug use in schools will slow and begin to fall by 2000.
  3. The number of criminal and violent incidents in schools by students will continually decrease between now and 2002.
  4. The percentage of students reporting tolerant attitudes toward drug and alcohol use will decline significantly between now and 2002.
  5. By 1999 all local educational agencies participating in the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program will use prevention programs based on the Department's principles of effectiveness.
  6. By 1999 all states will conduct periodic statewide surveys or collect statewide data on alcohol and drug use of students and incidents of crime and violence in schools.
  7. The percentage of teachers who are trained to deal with discipline problems in the classroom will increase significantly by 2000.

After more than a decade of declines, illegal drug use by American youth has increased significantly. Youth attitudes toward drug use, which are a strong predictor of changes in actual drug use, continue to show tolerance toward drug use. Rates of interpersonal violence are unacceptably high, and serious violent activity in and around schools appears to be escalating. Although the federal government has provided support to schools to help them develop and implement drug prevention activities, these efforts have not been universally successful. Definitive research findings about effective school-based practices have been slow to emerge. Indeed, a recent longitudinal study of 19 school districts found that although some drug prevention programs in these districts improved student outcomes, the effects were small. Moreover, the study found that few schools employed program approaches that have been found effective in previous research, and that program delivery was inconsistent.

Core Strategies:

Objective 1.4: A talented and dedicated teacher is in every classroom in America.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The percentage of teachers and principals across the nation who are rated by supervisors, parents, and peers as very effective will increase annually.
  2. Throughout the nation the percentage of secondary school teachers who have at least a minor in the subject they teach will increase annually.
  3. The percentage of qualified new teachers who leave the profession within the first 3 years will continuously decrease.
  4. The number of nationally board certified teachers will increase to reach 105,000 by 2006.
  5. By 2002, 75% of states will align initial teacher certification standards with high content and student performance standards.

A talented, dedicated, and well-prepared teaching force is one of the most important ingredients for education reform. Research indicates that teachers' knowledge and skill make a crucial difference in what students learn. Research also demonstrates the value of intensive and sustained high-quality professional development when developing skills in new models of teaching and learning. The current teaching force needs high-quality professional development if all teachers are to be able to teach a diverse student population to challenging standards. Further, new teachers must be well prepared to help diverse learners master challenging content and performance standards. It is estimated that about one-fourth of newly hired teachers lack the qualifications for their jobs. There is also high turnover in beginning teachers--22% of beginning teachers drop out of the teaching profession within the first three years. Key reasons include lack of support and typical "sink or swim" approaches to induction.

Core Strategies:

Objective 1.5: Families and communities are fully involved with schools and school improvement efforts.

Performance Indicators:

  1. The percentage of students who come to school prepared for learning and having completed their homework, as rated by their teachers, will increase substantially over the next five years, especially among children from low-income families.
  2. The percentage of young children who read regularly at home with their parents and on their own (at least 15 minutes a day, five days a week) will increase to 90% by 2002.
  3. The percentage of parents who meet with teachers about their children's learning will show continuous improvement, reaching 90% by 2002.
  4. The percentage of parents who say that the school actively encourages and facilitates family involvement will show continuous improvement.
  5. By 2002 the number of children participating in after-school programs will double, from 1.7 million to 3.4 million children. (Legislation needed)

Over 30 years of research clearly shows that all families--whether they are rich or poor, whether the parents finished high school or not, or whether kids are in preschool or high school--can help their children learn. Greater family involvement in children's learning is a critical link to achieving a high-quality education and a safe, disciplined learning environment for every student.

Core Strategies:

Objective 1.6: Greater public school choice will be available to students and families.

Performance Indicators:

  1. By 2002, 25% of all public school students in grades 3-12 will attend a school that they or their parents have chosen.
  2. By 2001 a minimum of 40 states will have charter school legislation.
  3. By 2002 there will be 3,000 charter schools in operation around the nation.
  4. School districts will increasingly make choice available to their students through magnet schools, charter schools, and open enrollment policies.

Research on public schools that provide choice suggests that the sense of ownership by school staff, students, and parents helps to galvanize effort towards common goals. Information on the educational effects of choice programs is limited; most charter schools are just getting started. Further work needs to be done on documenting the implementation and quality of public schools of choice and sharing the most promising strategies with the field.

The Department of Education is encouraging expansion of choice within the public school system with alternatives such as charter schools, magnet schools, and systemwide strategies that make every public school a school of choice, thereby enabling all students and their parents to choose their school.

Core Strategies:

Objective 1.7: Schools use advanced technology for all students and teachers to improve education.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Students who have access to high-quality educational technology will show improved achievement in core academic subjects and improved technological literacy.
  2. The ratio of students per modern multimedia computer will improve to 5:1 by 2001.
  3. The percentage of public school instructional rooms connected to the Information Superhighway will increase from 14% in 1996 to 25% in 1998, and higher percentages thereafter.
  4. At least 50% of teachers will integrate high-quality educational technology, high-quality software, and the Information Superhighway into their school curricula, by 2001.
  5. Students in high poverty schools and students with disabilities will have access to advanced technology (including assistive technology for students with disabilities) that is comparable to that in other schools by 2001.
  6. At least 60% of teachers, school administrators, and school librarians will have been trained on use of computers and the Internet to help students learn, by 2001.

Hundreds of studies have found that, when properly used, technology improves many aspects of education, including student learning, teacher professional development, classroom management, and school administration. As an instructional tool, technology helps students master basic skills, solve complex real-life problems that require advanced skills, and prepare for the world of work.

Few schools have adequate numbers of modern computers or access to the Internet, and relatively few teachers are prepared to use technology effectively. Further, access to computers and other technologies is not enough; integration of technology into the curriculum is also needed. We must create an infrastructure that will enable all students to leave school with the technology skills needed for work and further education. Finally, we must encourage development of software and universal design interfaces that make advanced technology fully accessible to students with disabilities.

Core Strategies:

[Framework of Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives] [Table of Contents] [Goal 2. Build a solid foundation for learning for all children.]