President Bush will support a national system of student testing and endorse radically new ways of organizing schools as the cornerstone of a new attempt to improve education, officials say.
Bush will unveil the proposals Thursday after meeting with some of the governors who joined him two years ago in setting a lofty set of educational goals.The new "excellence in education" initiative is the handiwork of new Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, who came to the job just four weeks ago ready to put his stamp on the reform movement.
It will also represent Bush's most ambitious attempt to deliver on his expressed goal of becoming "the education president."
The proposals will embrace some of the same education themes that Bush and former President Ronald Reagan have sounded before: expanding parental choice in education, holding teachers and school administrators more accountable and improving literacy and job training programs for adults.
But it will also throw the White House's weight behind some form of national testing, as a panel of education advisers recently recommended.
Alexander won Bush's backing for his reform ideas within days of his March 18 swearing-in, Education Department spokeswoman Etta Fie-lek said Sunday.
"There are four broad themes: better schools for the kids in school now; new schools for the students of the future; back to school for the adults and then `the other 91 percent,' " said Fielek.
The latter refers to the fact that students will spend just 9 percent of their lives in the classroom. Bush will seek to leverage academic improvements by improving child nutrition, parent education and other factors that affect academic performance.
The national education goals set by Bush and the governors state that by the year 2000 every child must demonstrate competency in five core subjects - English, math, science, history and geography - in grades 4, 8 and 12. The goals also include making American pupils the best in the world in math and science by 2000.