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President Recognizes Needs of Middle and High School Students in State of the Union Address

Press Release:

President Recognizes Needs of Middle and High School Students in State of the Union Address

“Expectation of literacy” is “law of the country,” President says

The Alliance for Excellent Education applauds President Bush’s recognition of the needs of America’s struggling high school students, demonstrated in remarks in last night’s State of the Union Address. As part of his new “Jobs for the 21st Century” program, the President called for the provision of “extra help to middle and high school students who fall behind in reading and math.”

The Alliance, which last month – with a group of 30 other organizations and 170 individuals – sent a letter to the President urging that he “increase dramatically the federal education investment in (his) FY2005 budget proposal to a level sufficient to address the needs of the eight million students currently reading below basic levels in grades four through 12,” welcomes the initiative.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 included “Reading First,” a $1 billion program to improve the literacy of students in grades K through three. The Alliance for Excellent Education has recommended the creation of a new program to extend that initiative to meet the needs of our nation’s struggling fourth through twelfth grade students. As the President noted last night, “All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered.”

With his call, the President has challenged Congress to act on behalf of the country’s low performing secondary school students, pointing out that “By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, you have made the expectation of literacy the law of our country.” In so doing, Mr. Bush has taken the first step in creating a new federal initiative that will build on the promise of the No Child Left Behind Act by extending its impact to increase the educational achievement and attainment of middle and high school students. The White House press office said that the Administration will recommend “$100 million to help striving readers and $120 million to improve math education at the secondary school level.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education urges parents, educators, policymakers, the media, and a concerned public to take a close look at the President’s proposal, the details of which will be released next month as part of his budget request for FY2005. Through a serious national discussion, we must determine whether the new initiative meets the needs of the nation’s secondary school students who are at high risk of dropping out of school or graduating unprepared for college because they are unable to read well enough to comprehend the increasingly difficult materials in their textbooks,. We must consider whether the federal program proposed by the President is well matched to the needs of our students, or whether adjustments may be needed to assure that the President’s goal – to prepare the next generation for jobs that require strong basic skills and training beyond the high school level – is met.

Based in Washington, DC, the Alliance for Excellent Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping America’s six million at-risk middle and high school students achieve high standards and graduate prepared for college and success in life.

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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington-based policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life. It is funded by the Leeds Family, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Daniels Fund, and the New York Community Trust, as well as by concerned individuals.

For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit:

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.