No Child Left Behind in
Falls Church, VA
January 12, 2005
Thank you all, very much. Thank you
all. Thanks, a lot. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm
welcome. Dr. Riddile, thank you for inviting me and Laura
to come to your great school. He said, we're not very far
from the White House. I said, fine, I'll just drive over.
It turns out, I didn't see any traffic. (Laughter.)
I want to thank all the students who are here today. Thank
you for coming to let an old guy speak to you. Dr. Riddile
said, make one thing -- make sure you do one thing, Mr.
President. I said, what is that? He said, keep the speech
short, students can't wait to get back into class. (Laughter.)
Here we go.
I also want to thank the folks that Laura and I got to
meet earlier -- teachers and superintendent, parent. They
explained to us why their school is so good. And we're
here because this is a great school. I'll talk a little
bit about that later on. But one thing for certain is that
the philosophy of this school needs to be the philosophy
of every school -- and that is, you believe in the best
for every student, and you do what is necessary to make
sure that every child -- not groups of children -- but
every child can read and write and add and subtract, and
every child has got the potential to achieve his or her
dreams in America.
The first thing I want to do is congratulate the leadership
of this school, the principal, the teachers, and the involved
parents for a job well done. (Applause.)
I want to thank Laura for traveling with me today. She's
been traveling with me for a long time. (Laughter.) And
for a public school librarian, the highway has been a little
bumpier than she probably thought. But she is -- she shares
the same passion I do, and that is to put systems in place
to encourage every child to learn to read. And so thank
you for coming, looking forward to working with you on
education matters during the next four years.
I want to thank Rod Paige, who's joined us. Rod is the
outgoing Secretary of Education. Four years ago when I
was looking at the Cabinet, I decided to pick somebody
who had been on the front lines of educational excellence.
Rod was the former superintendent of schools in the Houston
Independent School District. That's the front lines. And
the results of his hard work are noticeable in Houston.
And I want to thank you, Rod, for not only serving in Houston,
but coming from the great state of Texas to serve our country
for four years. (Applause.)
I don't know whether the senators will think this is breaking
protocol, but Margaret Spellings is traveling with me today.
Let's just say she is my domestic policy advisor -- and
if the Senate so decides, will succeed Rod as the Secretary
of Education. I don't know where you are, Margaret. There
you are. Thanks, yes. (Applause.) I suspect that if confirmed,
the seat will improve. (Laughter.)
Again, I want to thank Mel Riddile for being such a fine
principal. He's what I would call an educational entrepreneur.
You can't have a good school unless you've got a good leader.
And the principal is the leader of the school, and I appreciate
you. I appreciate your spirit. I appreciate your vision,
and I appreciate the high standards. (Applause.)
I want to thank the superintendent of schools for recognizing
that this good man is a good principal. And I want to thank
you for being here, Jack. Jack Dale -- Dr. Jack Dale is
with us, who is the superintendent of the Fairfax County
Public School District. Thanks for taking on a big job.
I was pleased to see that United States senators from
the great state -- or the Commonwealth of Virginia have
joined us. Senator John Warner is with us today. I'm honored
you're here, Senator. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Senator George Allen is with us. Thank you for being here,
George. (Applause.) Congressman Tom Davis, proud you're
here. (Applause.) A member of the Stuart PTA, I presume?
At one time. After all, his daughter Shelley graduated
from the high school here. I want to thank you all for
coming. I appreciate the attorney general of the great
state of Virginia joining us, Jerry Kilgore. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the state and local officials. Thanks
once again to the students and parents for allowing me
to come today.
This is one of the first stops in the year 2005 for me.
And there's a reason why it's one of the first stops, is
we are dedicated to doing everything we can at the federal
level to improve public education. You can't have a hopeful
America without a public school system that's working to
the best of its abilities. I'm optimistic we can achieve
that, and I'm optimistic we can achieve a lot of things.
I'm optimistic we can spread freedom, and therefore peace
around the world. I'm optimistic that we can continue to
protect our homeland.
I'm looking forward to working with our fellow citizens
to continue to spread the great compassion of America.
I want to thank those of you in this audience who have
contributed to the tsunami relief effort. I appreciate
so very much our fellow citizens for joining President
Clinton and President Bush in lending your heart, through
your money, to help those who suffer. The federal government
will continue to remain focused on making sure the victims
of that natural disaster get the best help possible.
I'm going to continue to work in 2005 to keep this economy
of ours strong so people can find work. And one way to
do so is to keep your taxes low and to reduce the burden
of junk lawsuits and needless regulations on our nation's
employers. (Applause.) Looking forward to making sure that,
to the best of our ability, that health care is more affordable
It's hard for me to come to a high school class
and look at our youngsters and say, the Social Security
system is in good shape when I understand it's not. To
the seniors of America, nothing is going to change when
it comes to your Social Security check. But if this Congress
doesn't join this administration in working to reform and
strengthen Social Security, we will not be able to look
at the high school seniors of today and say, we have done
our duty in protecting Social Security for you, for, after
all, the system will be bankrupt by the year 2040. And
now is the time for the United States Congress to join
with the administration to save and strengthen Social Security
for generations to come. (Applause.)
To keep this country prosperous and to keep this country
hopeful, we've got to make sure these public schools of
ours stay strong, and we started on that road to strengthening
every public school three years ago, when I signed the
No Child Left Behind Act. The theory of this law is straightforward,
it's pretty easy to understand: that in return for federal
dollars, we are asking for results. That makes sense if
you're a taxpayer. It makes sense, frankly, if you're an
innovative teacher and a strong principal. We're leaving
behind the old attitude that it's okay for some students
just to be shuffled through the system. That's not okay.
And three years ago we began to change the system that
too often had given up on a child, primarily those children
whose mothers or dads didn't speak English as a first language
or those children who may be growing up in inner-city America,
whose mom or dad didn't have big income levels. This administration
believes, and most people in America believe that every
child can learn.
And so we're raising the standards for every public school
in America. If you believe every child can learn, then
it makes sense to raise the bar, not lower the bar. (Applause.)
If you believe every child can learn, then it makes sense
to measure to determine whether every child is learning.
That's called accountability, accountability for results.
Accountability is so crucial to achieve our goal for every
child learning to read, write, add and subtract. Accountability
helps to correct problems early, before it is too late.
Accountability enables a good teacher to test a curriculum
as to whether or not that curriculum is working. Accountability
allows principals and teachers to determine whether methodology
is working. Accountability also is a way to make sure parents
stay involved in the educational systems across our country.
You know, for a while, in certain districts, a parent
-- you'd ask a parent, how is your school doing? And the
parent's natural reaction is, it's the best there is. In
some cases, like the parents here at Stuart High, they're
right. But in some cases, because there was no accountability
system, they were wrong. Accountability system allows a
parent or a local official or concerned citizen to compare
results from one school to another within a district, and
from one district to another within a state. And that's
important. Because by putting parents in the center of
the school system, it not only encourages parental responsibility,
it enables parents to demand reform when there -- reform
needs to be done. It enables parents, when they see excellence,
to do what every parent should do, and that is thank the
teacher and the principal for a job well done. (Applause.)
Accountability systems don't work unless there are consequences.
And so in the No Child Left Behind Act, if a school fails
to make progress, parents have options. They can send their
child to free after-school tutoring, or they can send their
child to a different public school.
For the past three years, thanks to Rod Paige's hard work,
these reforms have been put into action. All 50 states,
plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have drawn
up plans to measure performance in every school. And the
reporting process is beginning to work.
But more importantly than the process of putting reform
in place is that we're beginning to see results. If you
measure, you get to determine whether or not we're achieving
things. Fourth grade math test scores across this nation
went up nine points between the years 2000 and 2003. Eighth
graders improved by five points in the same period. In
other words, because we measure, I can now stand up and
say, we're beginning to close an achievement gap in America.
(Applause.) We've got reading scores -- reading scores
for 4th graders increased in the vast majority of states
that tested between 1998 and 2003, including Virginia.
African American and Hispanic and Native American children
are beginning to learn to read. There is a significant
achievement gap in America, and that is not right. And
we're closing that gap. And you know how we know, is because
we measure, because we're willing to devise measurement
systems, not at the federal level, but at the state level.
The results in Virginia are strong. Last school year,
69 percent of the schools met their target for progress.
That's up 10 percentage points from the previous year.
That's great. Except I'm now focused on the other 31 percent,
and I know the government here in Virginia will be as focused,
as well. Sixty-nine percent and an increase of 10 percent
is really good news.
But one day, I hope to be able to stand here in my term,
or a future President or a future governor, and say, we're
up to 100 percent success in the great state of Virginia.
That's what we want. We're not interested in mediocrity.
We're interested in excellence, so not one single child
is left behind in our country.
African American and Hispanic students in your state improved
their scores in reading and math. Things are happening
in America. Things are happening in Virginia. A lot of
it has to do with good principals and hard-working teachers,
and I understand that.
You know, the people of this country are probably saying,
why did you come to Stuart High School? And let me tell
you why. It wasn't so long ago that Stuart High School
was a troubled school. I can't remember what the words
the principal used. I think he said that they deemed it
to be a "failure," if I'm not mistaken. Nobody
-- at least the people in this school didn't want to be
called a "failure." So you set out to do something
about it. In 1997, the test scores were the lowest in Fairfax
County, and among the lowest in all of Virginia.
By focusing on results and stressing the importance of
reading, by making sure that the measurement systems focuses
on each individual child, by not tolerating excuses for
failure, this school has been turned around. (Applause.)
And how do we know? See, I can say that with certainty
-- in other words, I'm not guessing. I'm not saying, oh,
you know, the principal looks like a pretty good guy and
the teachers sounded smart and the students are cheering
loudly. (Laughter.) I know because you measure. The test
scores in reading and math are now above the state average,
and the trend lines are excellent. Dr. Riddile told me
what you would expect. He said, I am really proud of the
students here. He said, we're willing to do what it takes
for the students to succeed. I like that attitude; I hope
the parents like that attitude, as well. Whatever it takes
for the students to succeed. He said, it's not magic. It
takes hard work and smart work, and that's something other
schools can do.
I'm here at Stuart High School because I want other schools
who have got a student population as diverse as a Stuart
High School does to know that success and excellence is
possible. (Applause.) And the goal for our high schools
around our country is for them to achieve the same good
results you've achieved here at Stuart -- seems like a
realistic goal. And, yet, many of our nation's high schools
face serious challenges.
Out of a hundred 9th graders in our public schools, only
68 will complete high school on time. Now, we live in a
competitive world. And a 68 percent graduation rate for
9th graders is not good enough to be able to compete in
this competitive world. In math and science, the problem
is especially urgent. A recent study showed that American
15-year-olds ranked 27th out of 39 countries in math literacy.
I don't know about you, but I want to be ranked first in
the world, not 27th. (Applause.)
I view the results in our high school as a warning, and
a call to action. And I believe the federal government
has a role to play. As you can tell, I believe the federal
government had a role to play in primary education, and
I believe the federal government has a role to play in
secondary education. Up to now, the reforms, as I've explained
to you, focus on the primary schools. Today, I propose
a $1.5 billion initiative to help every high school student
graduate with the skills necessary to succeed. (Applause.)
Before you get too nervous, please understand that I strongly
believe in local control of schools. I don't believe you
can have innovation at Stuart High School if the federal
government is trying to teach you how to run your school.
The role of the federal government is to -- is to serve
as a funding source for specific projects, and an instigator
for accountability systems. The accountability system is,
of course, devised by local people. The state of Virginia
has devised its own accountability system. I don't believe
in a federal test. I believe a federal test leads to federal
control, and I believe federal control of the public school
systems leads to failure. (Applause.) And so I believe
the federal government has an obligation to help in a way
that helps local districts and local schools achieve our
objectives. Some of that money ought to be -- that I've
just announced will go to early intervention programs.
Under this plan, high school teachers will analyze 8th
grade test data for incoming 9th grade students so that
when they see a student at risk of falling behind, the
teachers and the parents can get together and design a
program to help make sure that child can catch up, before
it's too late. I believe in programs being flexible and
uniquely tailored to each student's needs, just like you
do here at Stuart High School. And so this program will
enable and help school districts and schools intervene
early, assess and design programs that meet the needs of
that particular student.
To support intervention plans, I believe we need to improve
the way the federal government funds high schools. The
federal government -- oh, we've got a lot of programs designed
to help high school students; over the years, programs
have developed. The problem is they're like silos. They're
prescriptions that may not meet the needs of the local
high school, or the local school district -- you know,
a program to promote vocational education, or to prepare
for college preparation, or to encourage school restructuring.
They all sound fine, and they're all important. But they
may not be what is necessary for a particular school district
or a high school to achieve the objective of teaching every
child to read and write and add and subtract. So I believe
we ought to consolidate the high school improvement programs
so that states have the flexibility to choose the program
that works best for their students. (Applause.)
See, we've got to be careful about pre-judging results
in Washington, D.C. We ought to say, you can achieve the
results, and here's the flexibility necessary to do so.
And by giving you flexibility, it means we're -- we're
more likely to achieve the results that we all want.
To ensure that the intervention programs are working and
graduates are prepared, we need to be certain that high
school students are learning every year. So the second
component of my high school initiative is to measure progress
with tests in reading and math in the 9th, 10th and 11th
grade. (Applause.) Listen, I've heard every excuse in the
book not to test. My answer is, how do you know if a child
is learning if you don't test. We've got money in the budget
to help the states implement the tests. There should be
no excuse saying, well, it's an unfunded mandate. Forget
it -- it will be funded. I've heard people say you're teaching
the test; if you teach a child to read, they'll pass the
test. Testing is important. Testing at high school levels
will help us to become more competitive as the years go
by. Testing in high schools will make sure that our children
are employable for the jobs of the 21st century. Testing
will allow teachers to improve their classes. Testing will
enable schools to track. Testing will make sure that diploma
is not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young
person ready to succeed. (Applause.)
The principal of this great school said we spell hope:
R-E-A-D. I thought that's a pretty darn good slogan. And
the reason why that's a good slogan is to make sure every
high school student has a chance to realize his or her
dreams, each graduate must read -- must know how to read.
You can't -- you cannot achieve in America if you cannot
read and, yet, too many of our children cannot read. And
so I'm asking Congress to increase funding for my Striving
Readers Initiative to $200 million. We'll use these resources
to help more than a hundred school districts train teachers
in research-based methods so they can provide effective
interventions for middle and high school students struggling
There is such a program here at Stuart. One reason why
Stuart is doing so well is because you've got an intervention
program when it comes to reading. How do I know? I met
with the intervener. (Laughter.) I met with the person
who designed the reading program. I met with the person
whose force of personality is so huge that not only are
people working on reading in reading classes, but they're
doing so at P.E. and math, and that is the reading coach,
Sandy Switzer, who is with us today. Thank you for your
-- (applause.) She knows what she's talking about. And
as a result, the high school students here are reading.
And it sounds odd, doesn't it, for the President to stand
up and say, we need to focus on reading in high school.
But that's the state of affairs. Someday, when No Child
Left Behind is fully implemented and kicked in, there are
not going to need to be early intervention programs or
intervention reading programs in high school. But, today,
we need them. And, therefore, this program will help school
districts make sure that at the very minimum, a high school
graduate has got the capacity to read.
I met with Zenab Abu-Taleb today. She is from Syria. And
three of her daughters -- one has gone to this school,
and two others -- by the way, one of them is going to college,
which is a fantastic achievement for the family. And she
was talking about what it means to have her daughters in
Ms. Switzer's reading program. And I'm not going to put
words in her mouth, but I will describe the excitement
that she had in her voice when she talked about the fact
that her girls are learning to read, are becoming literate.
She did something pretty smart, though, by the way, and
I hope other parents around the nation follow suit. She
said to her girls: you will be reading more than you watch
TV. (Laughter.) That's pretty hard to do. (Applause.)
She's excited by the fact that Ms. Switzer and the teachers
here are using research-based reading programs. I'm sure
some of you are aware of these reading debates that go
on around the country, endless hours of air time are spent
-- this one works, this one doesn't work. The only way
you can know is you measure.
And so Ms. Switzer has taken a program that achieves measurable
results and is spreading it all across this school. And
as a result, the students here are improving dramatically
when it comes to reading. And as a result, test scores
in other subjects are improving dramatically, as well.
Congratulations for a job well done. (Applause.)
To make sure that people can find work in the 21st century,
high school graduates also need a firm grasp on math. I'm
proposing a $120 million initiative to improve high school
math. With these funds, school districts will set up programs
to train math teachers in methods proven to succeed. Every
student should be prepared in math so that every graduate
has the skills necessary to succeed.
I talked to Stuart Singer. He's a math teacher here. You
may have heard of him. (Applause.) He's only been here
32 years. (Laughter.) He recognizes what I recognize: that
the best jobs are those that require math, some sense of
understanding of math. And too many of our students don't
understand that -- understand math. And we've got to get
it right. I want to thank you for teaching, Stuart. Stuart,
by the way -- you're not going to believe this -- falls
in the incredibly small world category. He graduated from
SMU in Dallas the same year that Laura graduated from SMU
in Dallas. (Applause.) I asked him if they ever went to
the bar together. (Laughter.) Both of them said, no, they
were in the library. (Laughter and applause.) It probably
distinguishes their college career from mine. (Laughter
One of the things we must be willing to always do is raise
the bar. We've got to continue to raise the bar in our
high schools. And one of the best ways to do so is by promoting
advanced placement and the international baccalaureate
programs. At Stuart High, you've got a fantastic IB program.
It really means that you're willing to challenge every
student. That's what it says. It just says, we're not going
to be -- we just simply will not accept the status quo,
that we're going to try to bring innovative programs to
this school to continue to raise the bar, to challenge
students as best as we possibly can.
Stuart, by the way, offers an IB course -- or IB courses.
He talks about former students that have come back from
college that have taken the IB classes, and he says --
he says, the sacrifice -- they say, the sacrifice is worth
it; It makes a big impact. And that's important.
And so for the students here wondering whether or not
the American experience or the American future belongs
to you, absolutely. But it's up to you to decide to continue
to soar and to seek new heights. And this school, one reason
Stuart succeeds is because the school continually raises
standards and raises expectations.
And that's what we need to do around the country. Every
student with the passion and ability to take an AP or IB
class should have the opportunity to do so. That's why
we've increased federal support for AP and IB programs;
a 73 percent increase over the current amount is what I'm
proposing. These programs will help school districts train
teachers to offer college-level courses. In other words,
you can't offer a program in a high school unless the teachers
are trained to do so.
And we also need to help low-income students pay for the
tests. It does not make any sense that a family budget,
when it comes to taking AP tests or IB tests, should stand
between a student's dreams and the ability to take the
Another way to encourage students to take demanding courses
is through the state scholars program. In Virginia, you
have a similar program which gives high schoolers an incentive
to take advanced courses in math and science and other
subjects. That makes a lot of sense. Taking high-level
courses like these makes the graduates more likely to succeed.
And so it makes sense for the federal government to work
with the state government, and the state government to
work with local districts to continue to provide incentives
to encourage students to take tougher and tougher courses,
to take a more rigorous course load. And so we're going
to continue to fund state scholars programs around the
country because they get results.
And I believe another way to encourage students to take
rigorous classes is to enhance the Pell grants scholarships
for low-income students who've completed the state scholars
program. (Applause.) High achieving students -- high achieving
students who take rigorous course loads will receive up
to an additional thousand dollars during each of their
first two years in college. (Applause.)
Let me talk about our nation's teachers. I was the governor
of Texas once, and one our great governors was Sam Houston.
And he had been a United States senator and a governor.
He was actually the president of Texas. We were a country
once. (Laughter.) He had a lot of interesting jobs. He
was quite a colorful character. They asked him toward the
end of his life, what was the most important thing he had
ever done. He said, being a teacher. I want to thank the
teachers who are here. You've got a tough job, but you
have a vital job. (Applause.)
By the way, I want to thank the parents who take an interest
in your child's education. A mom or a dad is the child's
first teacher. And a school -- I bet you've got a pretty
strong PTA here, and I want to thank the parents for staying
involved with school. The teachers, I know, appreciate
it. I'm sure the principal appreciates it, most of the
time. (Laughter.) But I appreciate your involvement, it
means a lot.
Lastly, I want to thank the Congress for sending a bill
called the Crayola Credit, which reimburses teachers for
up to $250 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses. It's an
important signal that we care of our teachers. It's a proper
use of federal legislation. (Applause.)
And we also passed a good piece of legislation that expanded
loan forgiveness from $5,000 to $17,500 for talented math,
science and special ed teachers who teach at low-income
schools. I thought that was a good piece of legislation.
(Applause.) Unfortunately -- unfortunately, it's about
to expire. So I would hope the Congress -- we can work
with the Congress to make loan forgiveness permanent. It
sends the right signals to our teachers and helps school
districts that are looking for good teachers to attract
And, finally, I believe the federal government can put
a program together to help reward success for our teachers.
I proposed a new $500 million incentive fund to reward
teachers who get results. Teachers could qualify for an
award by raising student performance, or closing the achievement
gap, or volunteering to teach in low-income schools. That
will be up to the local districts to decide how to disburse
the money. But I think it makes sense to encourage excellence
by providing a $5,000 bonus to nearly a 100,000 outstanding
teachers across the country. The program won't be administered
at the federal level. It will be administered at the state
and local level. But it's a way to help say to teachers,
thanks for a job well done. Here's a little extra because
of merit. Here's -- here's our way of saying thanks for
doing what you want to do, which is to provide excellence.
And so here's some practical ideas for the Congress to
consider as we head into a new session, to make sure that
the good folks of this country understand that we're committed
to education reform at all levels. We're making great progress
of the No Child Left Behind Act. I will vigorously defend
the No Child Left Behind Act. We will not accept rolling
back the -- the accountability systems in the No Child
Left Behind Act, because I believe the accountability systems
are beginning to make a huge difference in the lives of
children from all walks of life across this country. (Applause.)
Here's some ideas to 9th graders when they're coming into
high school, so we can assess their problems and meet their
needs before they lose hope, so the 68 percent graduation
number soars. Here's a way to help reward teachers. Here's
a way to provide good incentives. Here's a way to make
sure that we achieve what we all want: the best school
system in the world.
Thank you for letting me come by to visit. May God bless
you all. Thank you all. (Applause.)
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