Education Secretary William J. Bennett unveiled two initiatives last night aimed at improving the quality of elementary schools, including a new study group that will make a "report to the nation" next summer.
The 21-member panel, which Bennett will chair, will include Indiana Gov. Robert D. Orr (R), and Arthur Gunther, president and chief executive officer of the Pizza Hut restaurant chain, which is sponsoring a program that offers children free pizzas for reading a certain number of books.
When Bennett's predecessor, T.H. Bell, convened a similar panel during President Reagan's first term, the resulting report, "A Nation at Risk," launched an educational reform revolution.
But that revolution has mostly centered on improving the quality of high schools. "We must begin to focus on elementary schools," Bennett said.
In addition, Bennett is beginning an elementary school recognition program, similar to a program that now recognizes "exemplary" secondary schools.
In a speech prepared for delivery last night to the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Bennett said, "The elementary school has been one of the strongest and most successful institutions in American society. Everyone attends it, practically everyone completes it, and for a great many people it provides the seminal educational experience of their lives."