January 8 marked the fifth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the landmark education law that brought increased accountability to the nation’s schools and set a goal of getting all students performing at grade level in reading and math by 2014. During a series of ceremonies and events held that day, many of the key players from five years ago gathered, not only to celebrate the anniversary, but also to talk about ways to improve the law, which is scheduled to be reauthorized this year.
At an Oval Office meeting, President Bush met with Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) andBuck McKeon (R-CA), the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, along with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. According to Education Daily, the event marked the first bipartisan, bicameral meeting Bush has held on education since the 2001 negotiations over NCLB.
During the meeting, President Bush said that he was “proud” of the law and called it an “important first step toward making sure every child gets a good education in America.” The president also expressed confidence that Republicans and Democrats would be able to come together and complete work on the law’s reauthorization. “In our discussions today, we’ve all agreed to work together to address some of the major concerns that some people have on this piece of legislation, without weakening the essence of the bill, and get a piece of legislation done,” he said. “We showed in the past that we can work together to get positive results, and I’m confident we can do so again.”
In recent months, many observers questioned whether Democrats would be willing to work with President Bush on the reauthorization of NCLB, especially after several years of Bush budget proposals that they believed underfunded the law. After their meeting with the president, Kennedy and Miller seemed energized to begin work but made it obvious that additional funding would be a key concern during the reauthorization process.
“We’ve learned a lot from the past five years, and we know changes are needed to help improve and strengthen the law,” said Senator Kennedy. “Today’s meeting with President Bush was productive, but it’s time to see some action.”
“The No Child Left Behind Act has brought important changes to our public education system—for example, by shining a spotlight on the persistent achievement gap that exists among different groups of students in our country,” said Chairman Miller. “But if we are going to fulfill our original commitment to children and parents, then the law, its implementation, and its funding must be improved.”
Spellings Says Renewing NCLB is One of the President’s “Top Priorities,” Adds that Focusing on High Schools is “Critical”
In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier that morning, Secretary Spellings expressed confidence that Chairman Kennedy, Senator Enzi, Chairman Miller, and Representative McKeon would continue to be “strong supporters” of NCLB and said that renewing the law was one of the president’s “top priorities.”
As evidence that NCLB was working, Spellings pointed to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, that showed that the nation’s younger students made more reading progress in five years than in the previous twenty-eight combined. She added that reading and math scores are reaching all-time highs for younger students.
“The truth is, No Child Left Behind helps kids by measuring their progress and holding schools accountable for helping them improve,” she said. “It helps teachers by providing them with information to better manage their classrooms, and resources to improve and enrich their teaching. And it helps businesses by helping students gain the skills they need to succeed.”
At the same time, Spellings acknowledged that the nation’s education system “has not kept pace with the rising demands of the workplace.” As examples, Spellings noted that half of African-American and Hispanic students fail to graduate from high school on time and that two-thirds of high-growth, high-wage jobs require a college degree, but only one third of Americans have one.
In speaking about reauthorization, Spellings expressed a desire to preserve the principles of NCLB but acknowledged that some improvements were necessary. She did not provide specifics but posed a few “big questions” that needed to be answered. “Are we going to make accountability as meaningful as it should be?” she asked. “What will it take to help the students who are struggling the most? How are we going to use people and time more effectively to reach the neediest students?”
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise asked Secretary Spellings how the upcoming NCLB reauthorization would address high schools.
“I think it’s an absolutely critical reflection point for No Child Left Behind,” Spellings said in her response. “I think we’ve proved that the core principles of No Child Left Behind can and do work and that’s why we’ve seen such progress where we’ve emphasized attention: early grades, reading and math. But where we have paid less attention—in our middle schools and our high schools—we have not seen the kind of progress that we [need]. … We need more accountability, more measurement; we need to have more breadth to our accountability system with respect to other subjects, and we need to focus on graduation rates.”
Spellings also mentioned the lack of alignment between states’ K–12 systems and their higher education systems. “[We have] literally states with no high school graduation requirements,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical that we focus on high schools this year.”
A written transcript of Spellings’s speech is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2007/01/01082007.html.
Video of the speech, including the question-and-answer session, is available athttp://www.uschamber.com/webcasts/2007/070108_lieb_spellings.htm.
|Four States to Join State Scholars Initiative
Last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that the U.S. Department of Education had chosen four additional states to participate in its State Scholars Initiative. The initiative is a business-education partnership that seeks to increase the number of students who take rigorous courses in high school.
“Students who take rigorous courses in high school stand a far greater chance of succeeding in college and the workforce,” Spellings said. “We congratulate the states of Missouri, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming for recognizing the potential of this program and the considerable benefit that it can provide young people.”
As part of the State Scholars Initiative, each state will receive up to $300,000 during a two-year period to implement the program in at least four school districts. In those districts, volunteers from the business community will make presentations to eighth-grade students to help them understand the career options and monetary benefits that come with taking challenging courses. Presentations will occur right before students select their high school courses.
The State Scholars Initiative’s course of study includes four years of English, three years of math (including Algebra I and II and geometry), three years of science (biology, chemistry, and physics), three and a half years of social studies (U.S. history, world history, geography, economics, or government), and two years of language other than English.
The four additional states join twenty others previously chosen for participation. They include: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
The complete announcement is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2006/12/12142006.html