[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 16, 1998]
[Pages 378-380]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Opening Remarks at a Roundtable Discussion on Education and an Exchange 
With Reporters in Silver Spring, Maryland
March 16, 1998

    The President. First of all, let me welcome you all here. Let me 
thank you for coming. Many have made an extraordinary effort to come 
from a long way away, and I thank you so much for that. I want to make 
some brief opening remarks and ask Secretary Riley and Mr. Schmidt 
to make some remarks, and then we'll

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just begin the roundtable. And I want to hear from everyone before we 
    Earlier this month, our country received a wakeup call. Our high 
school seniors ranked near the bottom in math and science achievement 
when compared with their peers around the world, according to the TIMSS 
test results. This must be a call to action for all of us. That's why 
I've asked some of America's top educators, advocates, political and 
business leaders here today, to mobilize our schools to raise standards, 
demand accountability, and specifically, to strengthen math and science 
education and performance all across America.
    A little over 40 years ago--a lot of us are old enough to remember 
when America got another wakeup call--when the Soviets had just launched 
Sputnik and beat us into space. Then President Eisenhower said, if we 
were going to conquer the heavens, we had to strengthen math and science 
education here on Earth. Because we answered the call, in the years 
since, we have landed on the Moon, roved the surface of Mars, launched 
countless satellites that have revolutionized the way we live, work, and 
play here on Earth, and we're preparing to put the international space 
station into work.
    The young people Eisenhower inspired are now fueling America's new 
economy. They work at NASA, at NIH, in high-tech labs in Silicon Valley, 
in Wall Street boardrooms, in classrooms all across our Nation. Now we 
have to strengthen math and science education for a new generation of 
Americans in the 21st century. We know that for our time we need a 
revolution in high standards, accountability, and rising expectations. 
We know the revolution works. A report released just today by the 
University of Minnesota has found that charter schools are meeting and 
sometimes exceeding their promises to raise academic achievement. Now we 
have to spread these lessons throughout the educational system.
    In our balanced budget, I proposed a comprehensive strategy to help 
make our schools the best in the world: to have high national standards 
of academic achievement, national tests in fourth grade reading and 
eighth grade math, strengthening math instruction in middle school, 
providing smaller classes in the early grades so that teachers can give 
students the attention they deserve, working to hire more well-prepared 
and nationally certified teachers, modernizing our schools for the 21st 
century, supporting more charter schools, encouraging public school 
choice, ending social promotion, demanding greater accountability from 
students and teachers, principals and parents.
    And we have to bring more mentors into our middle schools to inspire 
our students to prepare for college early. I am pleased that this 
strategy is already moving forward in many, many States, that our 
Nation's Governors and State legislators of both parties are choosing to 
make a solid commitment to boost education, to advocate high standards, 
and to take advantage of this era of budget surpluses and good times to 
make our schools better so that we'll have even better times in the 
future. We'll work hard with Congress to make sure this plan becomes a 
reality. I urge the Senate to take the first step by passing the 
proposals to modernize schools this week.
    In this era of fiscal discipline, we have to recognize that 
Government alone cannot do the job. We also have to mobilize all other 
Americans in a concerted effort especially, let me say, on the topic 
we're here today--math and science education. States have to make sure 
that every math and science teacher is qualified to do the job. We have 
to insist that they've majored in their subjects in college.
    Today, nearly one of every five science teachers, more than a 
quarter of all math teachers, more than half of all physics teachers has 
neither majored in nor minored in the subjects they teach. The typical 
elementary and middle school teacher has taken just three undergraduate 
math courses. We can and we must do better.
    So I call on the States to require new math and science teachers to 
pass high-level competency tests in their subjects before getting 
licensed. The requirements must be vigorously enforced. School districts 
simply mustn't continue to hire people who don't meet the standards. 
Students must challenge themselves and take the most advanced math and 
science courses they can. Again, this is a big problem. Among college-
bound seniors, half have not taken physics or trigonometry; three-
quarters have not taken calculus. Around the world, middle students are 
learning algebra and geometry. Here at home, just a quarter of all 
students take algebra before high school. Our children must not glide 
through school without gaining these important skills. Business has to 
help us get the message out, too, so that they will hear

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that young people who study and do well will do better in the future.
    Today I want to say that later this year I intend to convene a group 
of business leaders specifically to discuss ways that they can 
contribute to raising student performance across our country. 
Universities can also help by strengthening their programs in math and 
science teaching so that more students will consider teaching as a 
career, and so that our newest teachers will be better prepared than 
ever for the classrooms of the 21st century.
    Finally, we need help from our parents, who should encourage and 
insist on teachers and students who do their best. I think it is 
profoundly important that parents keep up not only with the progress of 
their children in the courses they're taking but also in whether they're 
taking the right courses.
    If we all do our part, I'm convinced this is a challenge that we can 
clearly meet.
    Secretary Riley.

[At this point, Secretary of Education 
Richard W. Riley and William Schmidt, 
national research coordinator, Third International Math and Science 
Study (TIMSS), made brief remarks.]

Deposition in Paula Jones Civil Lawsuit

    Q. Mr. President, Kathleen Willey says that you made unwanted sexual 
advances toward her, and that directly contradicts your testimony. You 
can't both be telling the truth, can you?
    The President. Well, I don't know what she said, because I didn't see the interview last night. But I 
can tell you this: Ever since this story came out months ago--and as you 
know, the story has been in three different incarnations--I have said 
that nothing improper happened. I told the truth then. I told the truth 
in the deposition.
    I am mystified and disappointed by this turn of events. But it's 
been out there for several months, as well as conflicting stories from 
people who have discussed it with her. You'll have to find the answer to 
that riddle somewhere else. But I can just tell you that I have done 
everything I could do to clarify the situation. I have a very clear 
memory of the meeting, and I told the truth.
    Q. Mr. President, do you stand by your full deposition--
[inaudible]--in the Paula Jones case? And should that serve as your 
explanation to the American people of what went on--[inaudible]?
    The President. I certainly stand by the deposition.
    Q. Will you make a further explanation to the American people, as 
you suggested you would when this story first broke?
    The President. Well, I did suggest that, but that was before the 
deposition was illegally released, and it basically states my position. 
Whether and what else will be said I think is something that we'll have 
to deal with in the future, depending on how circumstances unfold.

Note: The President spoke at 11:26 a.m. in the Media Center at 
Springbrook High School. In his remarks, he referred to Kathleen E. 
Willey, former White House volunteer who gave testimony in both the 
Paula Jones civil lawsuit and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's 
investigation, and who was interviewed on the CBS News program ``60 
Minutes'' on March 15.