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Ray Simon
Ray Simon
Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Education

January 13, 2005

Ray Simon

Thank you for this unique opportunity to chat with concerned people all over the nation. I can think of no other topic as pivotal to the well-being of our society as education. It impacts our lives individually and our country as a whole. Thanks to the vision of our President and the work of people all over America, we are living in a time now, more than ever, when education is being treated as a civil right due to every child. This is an exciting time of positive change for education. With that in mind, I look forward to our conversation.

Paula, from Cincinatti writes:
As a parent, what can we do to help our elementary students so that they will be well prepared for middle and high school? I definitely trust my child's teacher, but I would like her to learn both in and out of school.

Ray Simon
I appreciate that very pertinent question. In order to give our children the best education possible, parents and teachers must work as partners. The No Child Left Behind Act has multiple provisions aimed at getting parents the information they need to be involved in their children’s education and make well-educated decisions. Parents should be aware of their State’s academic standards—what students are expected to know in each subject at each grade level—so they can reinforce classroom lessons at home. Please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at and click on the “Parents” link to get additional tips on helping your child succeed academically.

Lorna, from San Diego California writes:
Mr. Simon,San Diego has many spanish speaking students in our school district. What is the Bush administration doing for programs to help these students? I am familiar with English as a Second Language, but are there any additional programs we should know about?

Thank you, Lorna

Ray Simon
Sure, in addition to programs targeting English language acquisition, the Migrant Education Program helps students of migrant workers meet the same academic challenges of less mobile students. Further, the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind give equal priority to teaching English Language Learners so that they achieve academic proficiency while they are achieving English language proficiency. These programs and others ensure that students who come to the classroom speaking a language other than that used for instruction will not be left behind.

Kelly, from South Carolina writes:
Mr. Simon,The United States is often criticized that our public schools are not as intense as other countries. However, it seems as if many foreigners come to our universities. Does that mean we basically lag behind other countries until the college level? How can we catch up?

Ray Simon
The United States is very fortunate to have a higher education system that opens its doors to all interested students, unlike many of its foreign counterparts that only provide the academically elite with a higher education. Since my focus in education is at the elementary and secondary education level, I know we must do a better job of ensuring that students in pre-kindergarten thru grade 12 learn all that they are expected in the various subjects they take at each grade. Too many students are graduating from high school unprepared to succeed in college or the profession of their choice. We know that the reforms we’ve implemented at the elementary and middle school levels are working. We are using scientifically based instructional methods to close the achievement gaps. Now we have to put more effort into high school reform with policies that encourage students to stay in school, take more challenging courses, and better measure their academic achievement throughout high school.

Fred, from Jacksonville writes:
Mr. Simon,Have you ever been a teacher? If so, does this help you with your job at all? I think it would

thank you.

Ray Simon
Sure, my start in education was as a high school math teacher at North Little Rock High School in Arkansas. I’m grateful for the perspective that being a classroom teacher has provided me, but I also believe my professional experiences outside of the classroom have also helped me be effective in my job.

Norman, from Armarillo TX writes:
Mr. Simon, do you think the President will be able to achieve with education throughout the US that he did with Texas? One state is much easier to tackle than an entire country. I'm just not sure our governement is putting enough money forth for NCLB.

Ray Simon
Formerly serving as the state chief of education in Arkansas, like the President, I’ve had to make the adjustment from focusing on the unique needs of one state to addressing the diverse needs of each state in the nation. The President knows the formula to success in meeting that challenge: set clear and challenging goals, and provide the resources needed to meet those goals. No Child Left Behind has set a national goal of having all students meet their grade-level expectations in reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year, and Congress has passed record increases in the federal dollars flowing to states to help local and state efforts to meet that goal. I have every ounce of faith that we will continue the academic progress spurred by No Child Left Behind.

James, from New Haven, CT writes:
Isn't is a tremendous waste of energy and scarce resources of funding and class time to require standardized testing of every student every year from 3rd to 8th grade?

Ray Simon
We cannot afford to pass students along from one grade to the next without having an objective measure of their academic achievement in the foundation subjects of reading and math. Assessments aligned to content standards give teachers and parents the information they need to know how their students are performing and to address any academic deficiencies before their child falls behind and into discouragement.

Nadine, from CA writes:
I would like to know why there is not more funding for school districts in lower socio-economic areas. The pres. talks about no child left behind, yet all the statistics show that these schools in the poorer areas, inner city and rural areas consistantly are underfunded. What is the president

doing to increase funding to these schools?

Ray Simon
Those are the very schools that benefit most from federal assistance under the No Child Left Behind Act. The President has increased federal education funding to $57.3 billion across the nation, a 36 percent increase since he took office. That includes $13 billion dollars for Title I programs, the program within the Act especially for students in high poverty schools. Funding for this particular program has increased over 50 percent since 2001. I’d also like to point out that there have been consistent and substantial budget increases in other key programs such as those for reading, special education, English language acquisition and professional development.

Just as important, No Child Left Behind includes provisions that require districts to hire only highly qualified teachers to teach in schools that serve the most disadvantaged students. It is imperative that as states, districts and schools get these record increases in funding, that they also use them strategically to result in improved student achievement.

Brian, from Tecumseh, Michigan writes:
Mr. Simon,I am a high school student with a 4.0 grade point average, A's in every class, and I take part in several extra-curricular activities. However, living in a rural area and attending a small school, following state and local budget cuts some Advance Placement and other classes, which I would be very interested in taking, have been cut from my school.

Private schools are not an option, because of personal finances and moral opposition to anything but a public education.

In public schools around the country, the best and brightest students are unable to get the educational challenges they deserve. What can you and the Bush administration offer as a possible solution?

Thank you, Brian

Ray Simon
Yesterday, President Bush announced a $1.5 billion plan to improve high schools. It is essential that regardless of where a student lives and goes to school, he have every opportunity to engage in a challenging high school curriculum that will prepare him for higher education and the workforce. Part of the President’s plan includes making advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs more accessible to all youth. I look forward to working towards that end. Keep up the good work as you move onward!

Ray Simon
Thanks to everyone for their questions. I'm impressed by the breadth of issues we have discussed today. I hope that as we go our own ways this evening, we'll keep in mind that we each have an opportunity to positively impact education for our children. Let's continue in this great work together!