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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Rod Paige
Secretary of Education

Click here for more on the President's Education Policies
October 28, 2004

Good Afternoon. Secretary Paige is joining us on Ask the White House today. We will begin shortly.

Rod Paige

Joseph, from Canton, OH writes:
I want my kids to be smarter than I am. What has the President done in his term to see that they do develop as students not only in the classroom but in life as well. What does he think all this standardized testing is really going to accomplish?

Rod Paige
Testing is a part of life. Tests exist for a reason - in the case of a doctor, they certify that he or she is capable of practicing medicine. In the case of a teacher, they show that the he or she has the knowledge to help children learn a given subject. And in the case of students, they demonstrate whether a child has indeed learned and understands the lesson or the subject.

At their core, tests are simply tools -- they objectively measure things. In education, they are particularly important because they pinpoint where students are doing well and where they need help. In fact, testing has been a part of education since the first child sat behind the first desk. Assessments are an important component of educational accountability - in other words, they tell us whether the system is performing as it should. They diagnose, for the teacher, the parent, and the student, any problems so that they can be fixed.

Educational accountability is the cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act, the President's historic initiative that is designed to raise student performance across America. The early results show the law is working: achievement is going up.

Tim, from North Carolina writes:
Does the Bush Administration believe that Visual Art in Primary School K-5 should be taught by the class room teacher and not by specialist trained to teach visual arts.

Rod Paige
"The arts" is included in No Child Left Behind as a core academic subject. In defining "the arts", states are free to determine which teachers of art must be "highly qualified" (teachers of visual art, teachers of performing arts, etc.) and may require elementary teachers of visual arts to be "highly qualified". Since each state must define what those qualifications are for teachers of the arts, it's important to ask your State education agency and local school district what they are doing to ensure that the arts are taught by highly qualified teachers.

Claudine, from Alexandria, Virginia writes:
I would like to know about the education programs for federal government employees. I would like to know how to enter one of the government education programs that allows you to work in your current federal position and work on a masters pragram. In doing this one would essentially climb the federal GS ladder. I am currently a 7. I have heard of the programs that start out as 7 and eventually lead to a 12 or 13.

Rod Paige
Claudine, you should contact the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and check the USA Jobs website: for information about the Federal government's personnel policies on furthering your education. Best of luck to you!

Westin, from Salt Lake City, Utah writes:
Has the President done anything to help minorities pay for college?

Rod Paige
The President has supported a number of increases in funding that assist minority persons individually and increases that assist programs that primarily serve minorities. The primary federal program to assist economically disadvantaged students pays for college is the Pell grant program. Since President Bush took office, he has strongly supported increased funding for Pell grants, which through his most recent budget equals an increase of $4.1 billion or nearly 50%. Today, more than one million additional students are receiving Pell grants when the President took office, many of them minorities.

In addition, with the likely enactment in the coming weeks of his 2005 budget levels for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Historically Black Graduate Institutions, President Bush will have met the commitment he made in 2001 to increase funding for these important institutions by 40% by 2005. He also committed that year to increase funding for Hispanic Serving Institutions by 30% by 2005, and his budget would in fact exceed that commitment.

Finally, President Bush has supported substantial increases for Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities that serve Native Americans. These programs directly support minority students who seek a college education by ensuring that institutions that serve large numbers of minorities have the resources to make that education available.

Maria, from Fredericksburg, VA writes:
Hello I am a high school Math teacher and have been in public education for 9 years. I am strong supporter of President George W. Bush because of his stand on education. What can I say to fellow teachers who claim he has not fully funded the Leave No Child Behind Act? I know that he has increasedfunding for education by a substantial amount, but I don't know the specifics of the money spent on his initiative.

Thank you

Rod Paige
You are quite right that the President has supported substantial increases in funding under the No Child Left Behind Act, and for K-12 education generally. Through his 2005 budget proposal, the President has sought and received a 49% increase in K-12 funding or $12.2 billion, which includes both funding for No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Looking just at NCLB, funding has increased 42.5% or $7.4 billion. In his first three years alone, the President sought and obtained more money from Congress for Title I, the NCLB program that serves schools with economically disadvantaged children, than the previous administration sought in its entire eight years.

But aside from these historic increases, the money provided more than exceeds the additional costs associated with NCLB. In the past three years, states have received $1.16 billion for student assessments (testing) that do not even need to be in place under NCLB until the 2005-06 school year. In light of recent studies about the cost of the assessment requirements being less than $6 per child, this is an impressive sum.

Unfortunately, many of the complaints about inadequate funding are really a smokescreen from those who are resisting change. No Child Left Behind operates from such radical propositions as "a third-grade child should be able to read at a third-grade level" and "an eighth grader should be able to do math at an eight-grade level." Most complaints about funding really derive from an attempt to change the subject from questions about why students are not achieving as highly as they should today.

Natosha, from Springfield, MO writes:
The Bush administration has deemed the No Child Left Behind Act one of their biggest accomplishments during this presidency, yet thousands of schools all over the country lack the funding needed to put this policy into effect. As secretary of education, what would you say to schools across the country that have had to cut music, art, sports, and after school tutoring programs?

Rod Paige
In the past year, I have heard disturbing reports that local school leaders were cutting back on or even eliminating arts programs and citing the No Child Left Behind Act as the reason. In a July letter to all local superintendents, I "set the record straight," reminding them that NCLB recognizes the arts as a core academic subject. While the arts, unlike math and reading, don't require the same accountability under the law, that doesn't mean they don't count. In fact, the arts are important to a complete education for every child, not just those we might consider artistically talented.

The arts, perhaps more than any other subject, help students to understand themselves and others, whether they lived in the past or are living in the present. All students, from Kindergarten through high school, need opportunities to respond to, perform, and create in the arts.

Sadly, some school administrators today use No Child Left Behind as a convenient excuse to justify their own decisions about particular local programs. Federal support for education is intended to be supplementary to state and local funding, not the primary source. When I hear that a school district has chosen to cut important programs because No Child Left Behind's "lack of funding" has driven them to do so, I ask what are these costs that are driving the offsetting reductions? It certainly cannot be the assessments. Those are more than fully funded by the $1.16 billion provided in just the last three years, which will be accompanied by another $410 million next year and in each future year. Supplemental services (tutoring) and public school choice? Put aside the fact that children should not be required to wait for years for local schools to reform themselves when a quality education may rest just a few blocks or miles away in another classroom. The supplemental service and school choice costs are more than offset by the massive increases in the NCLB Title I program alone--up 52% or $4.6 billion through 2005.

The excuse also cannot be support for arts or physical education programs. The President supported funding these programs in his recent budget. Finally, cuts certainly cannot be because of federal support for after school tutoring. No Child Left Behind created the state-formula 21st Century After School Learning Centers program, which provides $1 billion in formula funds that can reach every district.

No Child Left Behind, in exchange for substantial and increasing sums of federal funding, only asks that children in grades three through eight should be able to read and do math at grade level, under standards established in each state. Indeed, if a school cannot do these things, shouldn't they be taking every step necessary to ensure that every child can read and do math up to grade level? This country's history of public education is includes too many examples of schools where the average of the whole hides the poor performance of minority children, economically disadvantaged children, students with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities. With No Child Left Behind, the focus of schools is returning to the education of all children.

Jenelle, from Kirkland, WA writes:
The summary of the NCLB (no child left behind)Act on the White House main page (info available to Feb 2004...this is late Oct 2004)...states:

to remove violent or persistently disruptive students from the classroom. In order to receive funds from this program, states must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for violent or persistently disruptive students

Well, there are quite a few of these students--more than "no child" and approaching 10 or more in the inner city. I think dropout rate is something like 20, but I don't have my facts. With this zero tolerance, how does the White House propose handling disruptive or violence in the schools...the tough problems seem to be quite "left behind" this an educational system issue or do all such problems (with zero tolerance) go straight to jail without passing go? What about ADHD or special education? Maybe change the title to '90 children not left behind.' What about the others?

Rod Paige
I believe you may be confusing persistently "dangerous" with persistently "disruptive."

If a State has identified a school as a persistently dangerous school, then the students in that school have an option of transferring to another safe public school. The local education agency (LEA) has the responsibility to notify the parents that the school has been identified as persistently dangerous and offer students who attend persistently dangerous schools the opportunity to transfer to a safe public school 14 calendar days before the start of the school year. LEAs are encouraged to complete transfers of students as quickly as possible. Also the LEA should consider developing a corrective action plan and implementing that plan in a timely manner so the school may be removed from the designation of persistently dangerous.

If a student is a victim of a violent crime (violent criminal offense) committed in or on the grounds of a public elementary or secondary school that the student attends, then he/she must be offered an opportunity to transfer to a safe public school. Each state law determines the specific crimes that constitute violent criminal offenses.

Lindsy, from Iowa City, IA writes:
I am a low-income college student who almost had to drop out this year (but for signing on to a $15,000 loan) due to my lack of federal aid. Why does Bush think he is helping students by decreasing the amount of funds for pell grant awards?

And how does he expect highly educated graduates to find good jobs when all of the opportunities are going overseas, and the only new jobs created pay poorly and have no benefits? I know you probably won't answer because my question doesn't fit your preapproved standards, but it's an important issue none the less

Rod Paige
I am glad to hear that you are continuing your college education, because it is the key to a better income. But if someone has told you that this administration has cut Pell grants, you have been sadly misinformed.

Pell grant funding under President Bush increased from $8.8 billion in 2001 to $12 billion in 2004. He has requested an additional $856 million for Pell grants this year. This would be an increase of $4.1 billion since he took office--nearly 50%.

This year, 5.3 million students will receive a Pell grant, an increase of 1 million since 2001. While individual students may receive less or more of a Pell grant from year to year depending upon changes in their own economic situation, there is simply no way to describe Pell funding as anything but a substantial increase.

I am also certain that when you actually enter the workforce, you will find conditions very different than you currently perceive. Millions of high paying jobs have been created since the recession and the economic shock of September 11, 2001, and American firms have great demand for skilled, knowledgeable workers.

A college education means hundreds of thousands of dollars more in income over the course of a lifetime, regardless of what you may have heard otherwise. A lifetime of better paying jobs awaits you after graduation.

Also, according to the Employment Policy Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, some of the fastest-growing occupations include management and professional jobs - those with the highest pay. The Labor Department worker survey that includes those occupations actually shows wages have grown almost one percent faster than inflation in the last year.

EPF's Job Quality Index, which measures job growth in jobs paying above the median wage relative to job growth in those paying below the median wage, has risen 2.0 percent over the year ended in May to an all-time high.

The index provides a more comprehensive and accurate look at the job market than those that look only at large industrial categories of jobs because it analyzes jobs categorized by both industry and occupation.

David, from South Carolina writes:
Could the budget for bussing children to and from school be better used for teacher salaries, supplies, programs, administration, aides and other direct to education goals?

Rod Paige
Good question David. I assume you mean the funds that need to be set aside to provide public school choice or supplemental services when Title I schools are identified as in need of improvement and that you are not referring to desegregation orders, which of course have been around for decades since the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

After two years of not making adequate yearly progress, a Title I school is identified for improvement. Now, let me take a moment to explain what being in "improvement" means. First, it means that the school needs to put together an improvement plan to address the areas that were not making enough progress.

Second, the school should receive additional resources, which can be either funding or expert assistance, from the district and state to help it improve.

Third, funds need to be set aside to provide additional professional development to teachers (targeted to the problem areas) to help them improve their skills and knowledge.

Fourth, while the school and district are taking all these actions, the students in that school have to be offered the option to attend another, better performing public school, if it is available, to ensure that the students have access to the best possible education while the school works to improve itself.

If the school were unfortunately to miss its state-set goals (adequate yearly progress) again, it would continue to have to undertake the steps above, plus offer supplemental educational services (free tutoring) to low income students to ensure they can have access to as much academic assistance as possible while the school works on changing the areas it is struggling with.

As to the issue of adequate funds, looking at NCLB alone, funding has increased 42.5% or $7.4 billion. In his first three years alone, the President sought and obtained more money from Congress for Title I, the NCLB program that serves schools with economically disadvantaged children, than the previous administration sought in its entire eight years. So, while there is a requirement to set aside funds to provide public school choice and supplemental services, the President has asked for substantial increases in Title I and NCLB funding every year in office to ensure these options are adequately supported.

DonnaMarie, from Cinnaminson writes:
Will anyone in the future look at " school choice?? Each child who does not go to public school in our town - saves the school approx. $10,000.Why can't families have a choice to take their children yo private or Catholic Schools?? We are saving the schools alot of money and we get nothing in return. People would send their children to a school of their choice if they could afford it. and they get nothing in return. Many schools are closing (Catholic) due to cost and lower enrollment. Someone hopefully will look int and help out these parents. Their are 1,000 's of signatures from Catholic and Public Parents who have recently signed a petition to bring to our legislators. Is anything being done about this because it also is impacting the classroom sizes in Public Schools. Thank You for your time. Donna Kennedy

Rod Paige
Educational choice is important for two reasons. First, it extends civil rights and social justice. Second, it enhances school effectiveness. The introduction of opportunity scholarships in the District comes 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

It comes 40 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. demanded a full measure of the American promise. Opportunity scholarships help remove the chains of bureaucracy. They free low-income students to obtain a better education in a school of their choosing.

Congress passed earlier this year a $14 million effort is known as the "D.C. Choice Incentive Program," a five-year, federally funded program to provide close to 2,000 low-income students in the District with grants of up to $7,500 each to attend the school of their choice, be it private, parochial or other.

While there are opportunity scholarship programs already in states such as Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Colorado, D.C.'s program is the first that will be federally funded.

In order to have authentic school reform, you need options. America already has created the greatest voucher program in history. It is stupendously successful. No one minds its support for private and religious schools. It is called the "GI Bill."

America has another great voucher program, the Pell Grant. Choice for parents shouldn't start when the kids reach college. It should start at the beginning. Choice is all around us-even in federal aid for college students-and it is time to bring it to the children.

Teacher, from CA writes:
Are the standards of NCLB made so that public schools will fail and be privatized? Specifically, how do you expect a special-ed student, who will never read above a fourth grade level because of a handicap, to pass a tenth grade standardized test. This would be the equivalent of you bringing peace to the middle east before your first term is over. Not gonna happen huh? Moreover, how do you expect all students to read and write English by 2014? Are you closing the borders so there are not any more spanish speaking kids coming from Mexico or are we going to start teaching English there? Those are the two obvious problems, want me to go on?

Rod Paige
Thanks for the questions. NCLB is designed to improve public education in America today by setting clear expectations and holding the system accountable for achieving those goals.

The public education system serves the vast majority of students in the country today, but it does not serve all those students equally or even adequately. NCLB was a bipartisan effort; Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts worked with the President to pass the law, and it was, by historical bipartisan margins.

That is because both Senators and Representatives in the House from both parties recognized that we can and must to better to educate all our students.

The vast majority of those left behind were African American, Hispanic, English learners, or special-needs or low-income children. The most glaring evidence of this was a huge achievement gap between some racial and ethnic groups and their white and Asian peers.

By 12th grade, African Americans are typically four years behind white and Asian students. Hispanics are doing only slightly better than blacks. In other words, these students are finishing high school with a junior high education.

If we did not raise expectations, we would have been stuck with more of the same. It is patently unfair not to hold all students to the same achievement goals, and the law insists that all students reach grade level in reading in math 10 years from now.

I am optimistic that we can do this. Already, we see early signs that more students are learning and achievement gaps are closing. For children with special needs, the Department has offered new flexibility for those students with significant cognitive disabilities.

As in your example, if the student is significantly cognitively disabled, then the school can hold that student to appropriate expectations set by the parents and teachers of that student.

As to limited English proficient students (LEP), we expect that schools will help these students attain English proficiency, and we have provided some flexibility for the assessment of and accountability for students who are newly arrived to this country and don't speak English.

In the end, though, the President and Congress believe every student should reach grade level in reading and math for their future success, and ours as a nation.

Jerry, from Louisiana writes:
Why each year more and more mandates are created which are not in the best interest of teachers. Let's get back to teaching rather than worring about our jobs. Teachers can't teach, because of the constant pullouts, excessive paperwork, and observations. Accountability is great, but we are all on the losing end. Take some of the pressure off the classroom teachers, allow them to feel the same way our teachers felt 20 or more years ago.

Rod Paige
Jerry, teachers are the true heroes of the classroom. You give so much. Frankly, I think you have the toughest job in America; but you also have one of the most rewarding. I know how hard you work, how much time it takes to prepare, and the many sacrifices you make. I was a teacher, too. So were my parents.

But the rewards are magnificent. When a student learns, a teacher smiles. When students are well educated, the hard work is worth it. Every individual success is a source of joy and satisfaction. When that success is multiplied over time and even over tears, then there is no greater reward. Teaching is a life of dedicated commitment, of selfless service, of sharing knowledge, and of sharing the self.

The American school system must become and remain the best in the world. We need all of our students to excel, not just some. The president wants to raise all public and private schools to the highest levels of scholarship and motivation. The essential first step is the No Child Left Behind law, because it makes education more inclusive, fair, and successful. It makes schools put qualified teachers in the classrooms in all schools, public and private. Schools now must teach all students. The name of the law is also a promise: no child will be left behind.

President Bush and Congress want you to have the resources you need. They have provided an unprecedented $16.1 billion in federal funding since 2001, to support the teaching profession. You should also know that the president has set federal education spending for fiscal year 2005 at $57 billion, a 36 percent increase since he assumed office.

We also have started a Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative to strengthen the Department's efforts to support teachers. Please learn about it at

Neil, from Broxterman writes:
How do you justify the assessment of a student based on one test given every 3 years? (PA in accordance with NCLB) What would a parent say to a teacher that their teacher is going to base their entire grade on one exam? I think that teachers abilities would be in question.Thank you, Neil Broxterman

Rod Paige
Thanks for the question, Neil. The assessments required under NCLB are not "high stakes" tests -- they do not give a student a grade, nor do they determine whether students advance to the next grade, nor do they determine whether students can graduate.

Some states have or are moving towards mandatory graduation exams, but that is not a part of NCLB. The whole point of assessing students is to determine how much of the state curriculum the student has learned and to determine which areas the school needs to address.

Therefore, under the state-set goals, a state must determine every year whether the school is meeting those goals using the assessments and other academic indicators.

For the 2005-2006 school year, all schools must assess in grades 3-8 plus once in high school to determine what students know and what schools need to do to ensure that all children, regardless of skin color, spoke accent or zip code, receive the quality education a nation such as our is capable of providing.

Ed, from USA writes:
Where can I find information about the President's policies relating to college education and the use of technology in classes?

Rod Paige
Ed, technology is a very important part of the educational system. Human history has been marked by technological advances. The greatest advances have been vital for progress in education. In the last six thousand years of recorded history there have been technological milestones: we have benefited from the invention of writing, clay tablets and papyrus, the abacus, the printing press, chalkboards, television, calculators, projectors, and computers.

The Department's Office of Educational Technology recommend policies to promote increased use of technology and technology planning throughout all programs and training functions administered by the Department of Education. Please visit for more information.

Concerning higher education, please visit our Office of Postsecondary Education at Also please see Educating America: The President's Initiatives for High School, Higher Education and Job Training at /infocus/education/20040513-educating-america.html to learn more about the President's high school and higher education proposals.

Donn, from Pennsylvania writes:
Yes Bush has decided that he will "boost" education but please give an in depth answer to the question of the costs and stakes to the average citizen wnd wealthy republicans.In the kindest respect Mr. President please don't change the topic

Rod Paige
Donn, the stakes couldn't be higher. The students who are in grade school now will be retired in 75 years. Unless we radically reform their educational experience, at that moment, 75 years from now, they will be the first generation of Americans in two centuries to participate in a second- or third-ranked economy.

They will have watched our economic strength marginally, incrementally, slowly slide behind that of other countries. In fact, we could occupy a position in 75 years similar to the position of France or Germany today: strong but not in charge, longing for former glory and power, our legacy of leadership lost, perhaps permanently.

Well, we simply can't forfeit our economic security. We cannot let others control our destiny. How do we remain economically strong and retain our economic leadership?

Education is the answer ... education is the most important response. America's economic power is determined by many factors. But the most important is education. The quality of our education system is directly responsible for the level of our economic success.

Yes, we have entered a new era, and as a nation we must be fully prepared for the challenges ahead. The economy of the 21st century is now a service economy dependent on technology, innovation, information, and technical skills. We need "knowledge workers." And knowledge workers must be well-educated. Marginally educated or undereducated workers are not in high demand.

The demand on all levels is for knowledge workers. The need for literacy in reading and mathematics is a prerequisite for almost every job. In the past, employers had jobs for both brawn and brains. Now, almost every job is highly dependent on intelligence, communication ability, and computer skill level.

Rafael, from Hamilton, NJ writes:
Thank you for the opportunity. My wife is a certified Especial Education Teacher, in the Trenton Board of Education, she keep telling me horror stories about the No Child Left Behind Program (NCLBP); to mention one, shesaid her children(who are in first grade level)had to take 5th grade level tests, just because is a requirement of the NCLBP. How can first grade students are expected to know the information they have not yet studied.

There is also the issued of lack of funding. This is becoming a very important issue among the school family. Please help me answer this one issue of testing to my wife and her colleague. Thanks.

Rod Paige
The U.S. Department of Education announced a regulation last year implementing the bipartisan No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reform law that has given give local school districts some valuable new flexibility in meeting the law’s requirements. The new provision ensures that schools receive credit for the progress of all children-including children with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Schools around the country are not be identified by states’ education authorities as “needing improvement” if their students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are unable to achieve at the same level as their peers.

At the same time, this new provision protects children with disabilities from being excluded from accountability systems that provide valuable information to parents and educators. All students-including students with disabilities-deserve teachers who believe in their potential and who will encourage them to make progress, just as all parents and teachers ought to have the assessment information they need to target their efforts and provide all students a high-quality education.

President Bush has put his money where his mouth is and increased federal funds by 49% at the K-12 level and 75% for special education alone. The difference is that we are demanding results, not just throwing money at the problem, as had been the practice in the past.

Rod Paige
Thank you all for submitting your excellent questions -- I am sorry that I did not have time to answer them all.

I think a lot of us will look back on this moment in time as the "tipping point." It is the time where we changed our mindset.we stopped measuring educational success by money spent.and instead starting examining outputs.measuring whether students are indeed learning. And indeed they are -- early results from No Child Left Behind are very promising: Rising test scores, a closing achievement gap, more children learning the basics now so they can succeed in the future.

But our work is far from finished.

Almost every week I visit a school. And I talk to the children. As a former teacher, I can't stay away! Adult problems can be worked out in boardrooms, conferences, or the halls of power. But the magic of education is still in a classroom, where a book can change a life, or a teacher can inspire a passion for learning.

And I ask you to see education reform through the eyes of a child. Our students see a powerful positive difference. They see a more inclusive environment where each student is respected and regarded. That sends a comfortable message of inclusion and concern to them; we care enough to include everyone. They get more attention from teachers, which is welcome because it expands their awareness. They see acceleration in learning, and there is more excitement in the classroom. And they learn the lessons of equality, civility, and tolerance, because they see such ideas practiced by their schools.

We can be confident about the years to come. We can see the shape of things to come. Each day we get closer to the best in American education, discarding our deficiencies and correcting long-standing problems. Each day we better serve our children. Each day, we make this country stronger, nobler, and wiser. Each day, we better prepare the next generation for leadership and responsibility. Each day we take one step closer to this future of excellence and inclusion. And we are doing it, together.

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