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May 5, 2004, Extra Credit
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May 5, 2004

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"Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education ... 'education is still the best place to continue pushing for change'"

Secretary Rod Paige recently gave the keynote address at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government conference examining the impact of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The following are excerpts from the Harvard University Gazette highlighting Secretary Paige's remarks:

"Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education officially opened the door to racial equality in the United States, 'education is still the best place to continue pushing for change,' U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige told a packed audience at the Kennedy School of Government Thursday (April 22).

"In his keynote address for a conference marking the golden anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to end racial segregation in American schools, the secretary lauded the verdict as one of the finest moments in American judicial history. But a half-century later, there is still much ground to cover, Paige said. 'Education is the battlefront; there are islands of true excellence in education ... but millions of children in this country are still being left behind.'"

"In his speech, titled, 'Beyond Brown: Unfinished Business,' Paige repeatedly praised the NCLB plan, calling it the next logical step to Brown. 'Brown opened the door to equality,' Paige said. 'Now NCLB can provide something of substance inside the building.'"

"According to Paige, despite the years of effort since Brown to equalize education, the achievement gap persists as our most pressing social problem. 'It is the civil rights issue of our time,' he asserted. Despite some recent improvement, studies show that by the time students reach the 12th grade, only 1 in 6 black students, and 1 in 5 Hispanic students can read at grade level, Paige said. Math scores are even more shocking: only 3 percent of blacks and 4 percent of Hispanics test at proficient levels by their senior year. 'It is devastating for a child to be provided no intellectual tools, and to be set adrift with no means of finding his way back,' said Paige. 'When a child is left behind, it is not just a problem for that child, it is a problem for the rest of the nation.'

"Although Paige cited evidence from a recent report by the Council of Great City Schools that indicated students in the largest urban school districts had shown improvement under NCLB, he cautioned educators and policy-makers not to rest on their laurels. There are profound consequences for our children and our nation if we don't build on this progress, he cautioned."

The complete text of this article is available online at: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/04.29/09-brown.html

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 05/05/2004