No Child Left Behind
January 8, 2003
Thank you all. Thanks for
coming. Thank you. It's one of the few jobs in America
where you get introduced by your wife on a regular basis
-- (laughter) -- in your home. (Laughter.) And we're glad
you're here. This is a -- you're one of our first guests
we've had since the new year. And this is an appropriate
gathering because Laura and I share a deep passion to make
sure every child gets educated in America.
We want to thank you for coming. And this is an interesting
day; it marks the anniversary of an incredibly important
legislative accomplishment. It was a year ago that I signed
the No Child Left Behind Education Act. It was the most
meaningful education reform probably ever.
I wish all the Democrats and Republicans who helped us
on that bill were here today. They've got other business.
One Republican is here, and that's Senator Judd Gregg from
New Hampshire, who is the author -- the Senate author on
the Republican side.
This was a art of what is possible in Washington. It was
a legislative victory on behalf of the children of America.
And it showed the American people that when people set
aside this needless partisan bickering, we can get some
positive things done.
So, a year ago we signed the piece of legislation that
I'm absolutely confident is going to change our schools
for the better. Change the whole structure of education
for the good. But it also was a signal to those who love
to divide in Washington, D.C. that when we put our minds
to it, when we focus on the greater good, we can get a
So I want to congratulate the members of both political
parties on this anniversary for working so hard to accomplish
a significant and meaningful piece of legislation. And
now we've got to get to work. Now we got to do the job
We can say that the work of reform is well begun. And
that's -- that's a true statement. The work will be complete,
however, when every school -- every public school in America
is a place of high expectations and a place of achievement.
That is our national goal. (Applause.)
And there are a lot of good people working on that goal.
We've got good people here at the federal level working
on it -- no better advocate than -- excellence in public
schools than Laura. She was a school teacher -- (applause.)
She's a school teacher. She's a reading expert. She is
a public school librarian. She's very knowledgeable, and
she is passionate. And so this year she's going to spend
a lot of time working with the local folks to achieve excellence
for every single child.
And so is our -- so is Rod Paige, who is running the Department
of Education. I like to tease Rod a little bit. When I
was looking for somebody to run the Department of Education,
I wasn't interested in anybody who was good on the theory.
I wanted somebody who was good on actually doing the job
of being a superintendent of schools. And he ran the toughest
school district in our state of Texas, which was the Houston
Independent School District. And he did a great job, because
he believed in high standards, accountability and local
control for the schools in the district. And Rod is the
right man to be the Secretary of Education at this time
in our nation's history. And he has not let us down.
SECRETARY PAIGE: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate you. (Applause.)
If you follow schools and if you follow public education,
you know that you can find excellence in schools where
you've got a good principal. Obviously, it requires good
teachers. But if you've got a good principal, an innovative,
smart, capable person, who is motivated and dedicated and
who believes every child can learn, you'll find excellence
in that particular school. And we've got eight such principals
with us today. And it is my honor to herald them.
Bernice Whelchel, who is the principal of City Springs
Elementary School right here in Baltimore, Maryland, or
right close here in Baltimore, Maryland. I want to thank
Mary Ann Hawthorne is the principal of the Samuel Gompers
Vocational and Technical High School in Bronx, New York.
(Applause.) Appreciate you, Mary Ann. Thank you.
Keith Owens, who is from Beulah Heights Elementary School
in Pueblo, Colorado. (Applause.) Keith. Yes, thank you.
Keith Posley is from Clarke Street Elementary in Milwaukee,
J.R. Guinn, Del Valle High School, El Paso, Texas. (Applause.)
Lorraine Fong, who is the principal from Kew Elementary
in Inglewood, California. I appreciate you, Lorraine. Good
to see you again. (Applause.)
Patrick Galatowitsch, who is the principal of Rolling
Hills Elementary School, Orlando, Florida. (Applause.)
Beth Hager, principal of the Whitney M. Young Middle School
in Cleveland, Ohio. (Applause.)
I appreciate you all. I'm glad you're here. I want to
thank you for standing up here with Laura and me and Rod.
It is a chance for us to remind our fellow citizens that
when you find a good principal, thank him or her from the
bottom of your heart for doing one of the toughest jobs
in the country. But I hope it's one of the most rewarding
jobs for you. Because, after all, you're achieving what
a lot of people say can't happen, and that is you've taken
some tough schools and converted them to little centers
of excellence. And you can truly say that, because of your
efforts and your love and your energy, no child in your
school is going to be left behind. (Applause.)
Today I had the honor of meeting members of the President's
Commission on Special Education. I want to thank you all
for your hard work. We will be reauthorizing IEDA this
year with members of Congress. I know Senator Gregg holds
this issue close to his heart. I think you'll find that
the reforms suggested in the Commission's findings is going
to be a great place for you to start, and hopefully finish,
Mr. Senator. (Laughter and applause.)
I also want to thank the education officials from five
states, which I will be naming a little later -- officials
who are on the leading edge of education reform. I'm not
going to tip my hand as to why you're here yet, but thank
you all for coming. (Laughter.) I know that many in this
room have devoted your entire lives to bringing a spirit
of high achievement to education in America, and I want
to thank you for that. You understand success. You've seen
success firsthand -- and, unfortunately, too many instances
you are aware of the persistent problems in our schools.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that we have passed children
from grade to grade, year after year, and those -- child
hadn't learned the basics of reading and math. That says
to me that somebody somewhere along the way believes certain
children can't learn, so, therefore, let's just shuffle
Many schools in our country are places of hope and opportunity.
Eight such schools are here; many schools in the five states
represented are places where people can feel hopeful for
the future. Unfortunately, too many schools in America
have failed in that mission. The harm has been greatest
in the poor and minority communities. Those kids have been
hurt the worst because people have failed to challenge
the soft bigotry of low expectations.
Over the years, parents across America have heard a lot
of excuses -- that's a reality -- and oftentimes have seen
little change. One year ago today, the time for excuse-making
has come to an end. With the No Child Left Behind Act,
we have committed the nation to higher standards for every
single public school. And we've committed the resources
to help the students achieve those standards. We affirm
the right of parents to have better information about the
schools, and to make crucial decisions about their children's
future. Accountability of results is no longer just a hope
of parents. Accountability for results is now the law of
In return for receiving federal money, states must design
accountability systems to measure whether students are
learning to read and write and add and subtract. In return
for a lot of money, the federal government, for the first
time, is asking, are we getting the kind of return the
American people want for every child. The only way to be
sure of whether or not every child is learning is to test
regularly and to show everybody, especially the parents,
the results of the tests. The law further requires that
test scores be presented in a clear and meaningful way,
so that we can find the learning problems within each group
of students. I'll show off a little bit -- it's called
disaggregation of results. (Laughter and applause.)
Annual report cards are required to grade the schools,
themselves, so parents can judge how the schools compare
to others. Excellence will be recognized. It's so important
for us to measure, so that we can praise the principals
and teachers who are accomplishing the objectives we all
hope for. And, at the same time, poor performance cannot
be disguised or hidden.
Schools that perform poorly will be noticeable and given
time, and given incentives, and given resources to improve.
Schools that don't improve will begin to face consequences,
such as that parents can move their child to another public
school, or hire a tutor, or any other academic help. We
will not accept a school that does not teach and will not
Schools have a responsibility to improve and they also
have the freedom to improve in this law, and that's important.
I can assure you, I haven't changed my attitude about federal
control of schools. When I was the governor of Texas, I
didn't like the idea of federal control of schools. I felt
we were pretty competent in the state of Texas to run our
own schools. I still feel that way, now that I've been
up here for two years. I believe in local control of schools.
And this principle is inherent in this bill.
The key choices about curriculum and teaching methods
will be made at the state and local level. Input will be
given by parents and teachers and principals who know the
local culture best. Parents and educators will not be bystanders
in education reform. As a matter of fact, in our view,
they are the agents of education reform. And this law upholds
that principle, as well.
Across America, states and school districts are working
hard to implement these reforms. Today, Secretary Paige
is approving the first five accountability plans -- hence
the five folks I've invited here. (Laughter.) The first
five accountability plans have been approved, and they
are from the states of Ohio and Massachusetts, New York,
Colorado and Indiana. (Applause.)
Their plans are rigorous and their plans are innovative.
They are also varied, reflecting the different strengths
and challenges within each state. One size doesn't fit
all when it comes to public education. What counts are
results. What counts are the fact that the schools will
be teaching the basics, and children learn how to read
and compute. These states recognize that.
I want to thank you very much for showing what is possible
for being on the leading edge. The plans show the kind
of energy and commitment and good faith that education
reform demands. These leaders who have prepared these plans
show us that high standards are not a burden to carry.
They show us that this a opportunity to seize. The leaders
also show a faith and confidence in their students, a belief
that every child can learn.
Children respond to an atmosphere of high standards. As
teachers and parents can tell you, children love to learn,
just love it. And they sense when we have faith in them,
and they love to justify that faith. And that's what you
all have shown, faith in every child.
The main reservations we've heard in the year since we
passed the reform have come from some adults, not the children,
who say the testing requirement is an unfunded mandate
on the states. Well, that's not true. We put up $387 million
to provide for testing, to pay for the testing in this
year's budget. I intend to ask for the same amount next
year. We demanded excellence. We're going to pay for the
accountability systems to make sure that we do get excellence.
Some have claimed that testing somehow distracts from
learning. I've heard this excuse since I was the governor
of Texas -- oh, you're teaching to test. Well, if a child
can pass the reading test, the child has learned to read,
as far as I'm concerned. (Applause.)
Other critics worry that high standards and measurement
invite poor results. In other words, don't measure; you
might see poor results, I guess is what they're saying.
That they fear that by imposing clear standards, we'll
set some schools up for failure, and that we'll identify
too many failing schools. Well, the reasoning is backwards
as far as I'm concerned, and a lot of other good people
are concerned, as well. You don't cause a problem by revealing
the problem. Accountability doesn't cause failure; it identifies
failure. And only by acknowledging poor performance can
we ever help schools to achieve. You can't solve a problem
unless you first diagnose the problem.
And so the accountability schools understand -- the accountability
rules understand that schools can achieve. And that's why
these eight are up here with us. And I want to cite two
examples. One, Beulah Heights Elementary in Pueblo, Colorado.
The proportion of fourth graders reading at or above proficiency
has gone from 50 percent, which is clearly unacceptable,
to 86 percent in three years. (Applause.)
How do we know? We measured. He wouldn't be standing here
if we didn't measure. We'd be guessing as to whether or
not -- and we'd find out, unfortunately, after the 50 percent
that couldn't read graduated from high school and still
couldn't read. Accountability helps address problems early,
before it's too late. Accountability gives us a chance
to praise a principal -- and thank your teachers, too.
At Del Valle High School in El Paso, less than half the
children in that high school could pass an Algebra I exam
two years ago. See, we measured in Texas. We wanted to
know. This year, the number has risen to 74 percent.
I want to tell you what J.R. Guinn has said. He said,
you have to make the expectation of success part of your
belief system. We're raising the bar, and we expect success.
And, J.R., you're getting success. Thank you for your leadership.
Good guy. (Applause.)
All these school leaders understand it's not easy to turn
a school around. They know that. It's hard to go from frustration
and despair to achievement and pride. Yet these principals
and the teachers have made the effort, and they're seeing
the results. And it must make you feel great.
This administration is committed to your effort. And with
the support of Congress, we will continue to work to provide
the resources school need to fund the era of reform. This
school year, we're providing more money than ever before
to help states and school districts. The federal government
is going to spend $22 billion this year. Over the last
two years, we've increased funding for elementary and secondary
education by 49 percent. That's a large increase.
It is not enough to spend more on schools, however. This
issue is not just about money. We must spend money more
wisely. We must spend money on what works. And we must
make sure we continue to insist upon results for the money
The priorities of the No Child Left Behind Act will be
reflected in the budgets I submit, as long as I'm working
here. (Applause.) This year, for example, I'm requesting
more than $1 billion for the federal reading programs in
next year's budget.
Now, I want you to know something about reading. Laura
and I share a passion for reading. We want to make sure
every child learns to read by the third grade. However,
we will not fund reading programs which do not work. (Applause.)
My friend, Reid Lyon is here, from the National Institute
of Health. Reid is a reading expert. He understands the
science of reading. He explained to me a long time ago,
some curricula work and some don't. He understands what
works. Again, I repeat, we're willing to spend more money.
We're not going to spend money on curriculum that will
not teach our children how to read.
But we are willing to spend it, because we understand
that if you can't read, the science programs don't matter,
it's hard to excel in math. Reading is the gateway to knowledge.
Reading is the true civil right of the 21st century, as
far as I'm concerned. (Applause.)
And we're proposing more money for Title I students, as
well. We're going to ask for the '04 budget a billion dollar
increase, up to $12.3 billion for Title I students. Because
one of the goals in this nation has got to be to close
the achievement gap.
That starts with having high expectations. You see, I
want to repeat what I said earlier -- I believe that too
many of the adults figure certain children cannot learn.
And they just say, heck, let's just move them through.
So we not only need to make sure the money is there, but
we've got to make sure the attitude changes. And the accountability
systems within the No Child Left Behind Act insist that
we have an attitude change in America. That's what this
One year ago, we met the first challenge of education
reform. We passed the law. And now we've got another challenge,
and that's the implementation of this law. Today, we honor
five states; there are 45 more to go. Some of the education
leaders of those states are here. We look forward to seeing
your plans. We look forward to seeing the spirit of the
No Child Left Behind law in your plans. We look forward
to strong accountability systems. We look forward to seeing
the implementation of curricula that works. We look forward
to the hiring of principals who know how to lead a school.
We look forward to rewarding teachers who are not only
lending their hearts, but their talents, to make sure no
child gets left behind. We look forward to a culture in
America that understands every child can learn. And we
look forward to the day that no child in this country is
ever left behind.
Thank you all. (Applause.)
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