The following are excerpts from President Bush’s remarks today at Butterfield Junior High School:
On supporting schools: "In 2003, we spent $234 million to assist underperforming schools to make sure people aren't left behind. In other words, we said, here's a problem, and here's some extra money to help you fix it. In 2004, we'll at least double that amount. In other words, the federal government is saying, measure, and, oh, by the way, when we find mediocrity, we'll help. But the local people have got to change. You've got to change what you're doing in order to make sure that children can learn. We expect schools to do their job and we're helping them do their job."
On new options for parents: "The attitude in this bill says, no child should be trapped in a school that does not teach and will not change. In other words, there is time to change. There is time to change, but if you refuse to change, and somebody is still trapped in the school that is not meeting standards, then something has to happen. Parents need options to help their child. Federal dollars will follow the child. For example, if a school -- a child is trapped in a school for several years that is -- that's not meeting standards, the federal government will pay for after-school tutoring, and the parent can choose all kind of tutoring options, whether they be public or private."
On preserving local control: "The No Child Left Behind Act raises expectations, but leaves control where it belongs, at the local level. See, you can't provide people excuses. There's no better excuse than saying, I would have done it this way, but the federal government told me to do it this way. I fully understand that. In order to make sure that there is an accountability system that works, you not only measure, but you then say to people, it's up to you to chart the path to excellence."
On testing and accountability: "The whole point is this: It is not enough to hope that students are learning. I mean, that's just, to me, an excuse why not to measure. We need to know the ones who are learning and the ones who are not learning. Some believe that the standards of No Child Left Behind are too high. They say that if you raise expectations, all you're doing is setting up children to fail. Yet this law requires students to perform at grade level, which doesn't seem like it's too high a bar to cross. … [That is] the standard that we must hold true to if we want to make sure every child has a chance to succeed in our great country."
On closing the achievement gap: "[T]here's an achievement gap here in America today that we've got to close. There's an achievement gap between the test scores of white and minority students. Nationally, on reading tests, black and Hispanic 4th graders score at least 26 percentage points lower than white students in the same grade. We've got to do something about that. If we want this country to be a hopeful country for every citizen, if we want to make sure every person can realize the American Dream, we've got to close this gap."
On the new flexibility provisions of NCLB: "This No Child Left Behind Act is a good law. It's a good, solid law. But I understand some adjustments need to be made, even in the best laws. So we've listened to schools and teachers, and we're responding in practical ways. We're making sure that the progress of special ed students is judged by standards appropriate to their development. … We're giving schools more time to bring students who don't speak English as a first language into the accountability system. … We're giving schools in rural areas more latitude in meeting teacher qualification standards. In other words, we're flexible in the application of the law. Yet I will never compromise on this goal: Every child can learn the basics, and every school must teach the basics."
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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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