November 11, 2003, Extra Credit
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November 10, 2003
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 November 7
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Lou Dobbs' Q & A With Secretary Paige

Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige appeared on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight. Following are excerpts from the interview:

On Funding and Accountability

DOBBS: Mr. Secretary, [the amount of federal, state, and local funds spent on K-12 education is] an enormous amount of money, $470 billion. Why in the world can't our children, too many of them, why can't they read?

PAIGE: Absolutely. In fact, this nation last year spent more money on K-12 education than it did on national defense. Is it too much to ask that a fourth grade child read on a fourth grade level after this nation commits that much public money? There are clearly other reasons why our students are not performing.

DOBBS: What are they, in your judgment?

PAIGE: Well, I think accountability is a good example of something we need to be better at. And that is why the President, in his No Child Left Behind Act, has accountability right up at [the] forefront, accountability, stop making excuses about some students who are having difficult situations at home, difficult languages, but take responsibility for students and teach our students to read.

On Making Sure Students With Disabilities Are Not Left Behind

DOBBS: The fact is, our special-education programs, which are laudable and notable and remarkable, in point of fact, many teachers blame the inability to deal effectively with special-ed students for slowing down other students and diverting much needed money and time. How do we deal with that issue, because no one wants to talk about it, it seems?

PAIGE: Well, let's talk about it. The No Child Left Behind idea means no child left behind. A child who has special education needs is just like a child that does not have special education needs. Every child should get our best effort. So if a child has special needs, we need to meet that child's need just like we do others. So we want every single child to learn.

On The Achievement Gap

DOBBS: And let's—let's talk also about minorities in this country. Still, the gap in testing in excess of 30 percent, whether black or Hispanic, behind white students.

PAIGE: Absolutely. ... That is why it's so important that we embrace the No Child Left Behind Act and continue to work on the framework that it provides for us.

On The National Education Association

DOBBS: I keep asking myself and let me ask you, where in the world is the National Education Association? Where is the teachers' association? Where is the PTA? Everyone goes on as if we can just simply surrender our future, not worry about the fact students are not being taught mathematics and natural sciences. How frustrated must you be?

PAIGE: Oh, I think if I had the luxury to be frustrated, I could be very frustrated. But what I'm going to do is work hard to make sure that we get accountability in schools, that parents get choices, that we're using the right pedagogy, and that we have local options and flexibility. This is what we're going to do on [the] No Child Left Behind Act. And that is going to be the framework around which we're going to improve schools. But we must improve schools in a way that every single child has an opportunity to learn.


About Extra Credit
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: 11/17/2003