The following are excerpts from an article in the Columbus Dispatch highlighting Secretary Spellings' trip to the National PTA convention last week.
The nation's school system is at a tipping point, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told parents and teachers in Columbus yesterday at the annual convention of the National PTA.
Spellings, who took over in January as education secretary, said that 3 1/2 years into the No Child Left Behind Act, poor attitudes and low test scores nationwide continue to plague the system and limit progress. But schools are starting to move in the right direction, she told the audience at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
They'll need help, she said, as she challenged the PTA to double in size, to 12 million members, by 2010 and to care for every child.
If parents can't come to the PTA meetings, then the meetings must go to the parents, she said.
The PTA is an organization that can help tackle negative attitudes head on.
Spellings said afterwards that all states are making progress and are on track to meet No Child Left Behind requirements for every student to be proficient in math and reading by the 2013-14 deadline. New York, Maryland and Florida made notable progress this year, she said.
But, she cautioned, We are at the beginning of this journey, and the modest progress being made has not erased the risk that the education system could fail them.
We must make communities care, Spellings said. Achievement for all children must matter to all.
Students at struggling schools are taking advantage of No Child Left Behind to get extra help or transfer, she said. In 2003-04, 30,000 students nationwide changed schools, and 220,000 received tutoring.
Challenges remain: 69 percent of America's fourth-graders are not proficient readers. Some educators continue to believe that some students can't be educated. And a lack of science teachers has led to a lack of American scientists. Quoting New York Times journalist Thomas L. Friedman, Spellings said that 40 percent of U.S. engineers are foreign-born.
Universities also must challenge their students. In Arkansas, Spellings said, teachers colleges produced 1,193 physical-education majors and one physics major in a five-year period.
Spellings, who recently returned from a trip to Japan, said the Japanese are investing in math and science courses while Americans are worrying about the ink color teachers use to grade papers -- preferring purple rather than the angrier red.
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