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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.

Margaret Spellings
Secretary of Education

Margaret Spellings
Good afternoon. It’s great to be here today talking about education. Both President Bush and I have been talking today about the great news we received that students across the country, especially elementary school students, are making great progress in reading and math and starting to close the achievement gap.

Tim, from Ann Arbor, Michigan writes:
I have heard many criticisms of "No child left behind" because it is so underfunded by the federal government. What is your depertment's assessment of the cost of no child left behind? How does this compare to current federal funding levels for no child left behind?

Margaret Spellings

The federal government is doing its part to fund education. Since the President has been in office, funding under No Child Left Behind has increased over 40%. And the President continues to make education a priority by requesting increased funding for programs like Title I, which provides assistance to help low-income students read and do math on grade level, and IDEA, which provides funding for special education. The President’s 2006 budget would increase Title I funding by 52% since 2001 and IDEA funding by 75%. But we must also remember that education is mainly a state and local responsibility, so while we are doing our part, most of the funding for education comes from the local and state level.

But the really important thing is the results of what we are spending our money on. And our Nation’s Report Card results today show that we are moving in the right direction by raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap. With more hard work in the future, we will continue to make more progress and ensure that every student receives a high-quality education.

Michael, from Marietta, Georgia writes:
1. I would like to see data, regarding rural and inner-city minority children's education (all aspects but particularity dollars per child ratio, prior to and since the No Child Left Behind Initiative. My sense is that minority children, their schools and community neighbors are not recieving the kind and type of funding that non- minority children ARE receiving. My name is Michael Maurice Johnson. (B) what are the indicators to the president and first lady that NO CHILD is being left behind educationally?

Margaret Spellings

We look at student achievement to see how students are doing under No Child Left Behind. This morning, the newest results of the Nation’s Report Card show that in the last five years, our nation’s kids have made great gains in reading and math, especially among minority students. Reading scores for African-American nine-year-olds went up 14 points since 1999, and scores for Hispanic nine-year-olds went up 12 points. We see the same impressive results in math, where scores for African-American nine-year-olds went up 13 points in the past five years, and scores for Hispanic nine-year-olds went up 17 points.

Your state and local officials will have data on education funding in your community, but I can say that federal funding aimed at low-income students is a high priority for President Bush. We have increased funding for low-income students through the Title I program by over 40% since 2001, and most of our federal programs target our federal dollars to schools with larger numbers of low-income students.

We are excited to see these kind of gains, and will work hard in the future to make sure that we make more progress and close the achievement gap in this country.

Anjum, from Pakistan writes:
I have recently established an NGO "Asavari Development Organization" in district Gujrat of Pakistan. I am in the process of setting up the goals. Could you please help me to set the latest global education policy, which I could follow for our organizations future programs

Margaret Spellings
Thank you for your question, Anjum. Education and literacy are key tools for empowering people around the world, and I applaud you on your important work. The U.S. is actively working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to improve literacy throughout the world, to promote high standards and quality, to ensure social inclusion and access, and to stress the importance of sound measurement and data. I recently traveled to Afghanistan and Jordan and have seen firsthand the strides these countries are making in providing educational access, especially for girls and women. And when I was in Afghanistan with First Lady Laura Bush, we were able to announce new funding we are providing to support education initiatives in that country. As your organization develops its future programs, I would direct you to look into our work with UNESCO as a resource.

joe, from Phoenix,Arizona writes:
Hi Mrs. Secretary, How is the No Child Left Behind Act keeping up? Is it making any progress?


Margaret Spellings
That is a very important question, Joe. I’m glad you asked it—especially today!

The new results of the Nation’s Report Card were released today and they show that America’s 9-year-olds are posting the best scores in reading and math in the history of this report, which dates to 1971 for reading and 1973 for math. And 13-year-olds have earned the highest math scores the test has ever recorded.

The report also shows that the achievement gap between white and minority students is shrinking. The math achievement gap between white and Hispanic 9-year-olds and the reading achievement gap between white and African-American 9-year-olds are smaller than ever before!

Not only is NCLB making progress on the national level, but it is also making remarkable progress in Arizona. Between 2002 and 2004 (the latest data available), the achievement gap between white and Hispanic third-graders in reading narrowed by eight percentage points and the gap in math narrowed by six percentage points.

A little over three years ago, our country made a commitment to leave no child behind. The progress that is being made is a tribute to students, teachers, parents, principals, school administrators, and state and national policymakers. Thanks again for your question, Joe.

chen, from xiaolan writes:
I am a Chinese teacher ,may I ask you a question?Hwo many American can not offerto go to college?

Margaret Spellings
Greetings to you in China! We continue to work to make sure that students in America have the opportunity to go to college. That’s why the President proposed a significant increase in funding this year for the Pell Grant program, which provides grants to low-income students to help pay for college. The President’s 2006 budget proposed $15 billion over the next five years to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $100 each year, from $4,050 to $4,550. We also want to make Pell Grants available year-round for students who want to accelerate their studies, and provide an additional $1,000 to Pell Grant recipients who complete a rigorous high school curriculum.

While money for college is important, we are also working to make sure high school students are prepared to enter college and graduate. That’s why we are placing such a strong focus on reforming our high schools and making sure that students graduate ready to succeed in college or the workplace.

Lora, from Boone,N.C. writes:
What, in brief, is the No Child Left Behind program (or a sight I can visit for this information?)? How does it, or does it, adversely affect our average and advanced American children's education? Are overall standards lowered, as I have heard, so that no child is left behind? Wouldn't that be a disservice in the long run to the majority of our children and the future of America? I also would like to know what is being done, if anything, to strengthen our Academically Gifted children, and to discover them among the Average. It seems to me very important to the future that these children have resources they need to become our Doctors, Lawyers and Law Makers, our Scientists, Authors, Environmentalists, Politicians, and Presidents. Iwonder if we are short sighted in focusing on making sure our loved but slow children get all the special attention, while neglecting the advancement of those who will be taking care of them later. Please enlighten me. Thankyou so much, and please know how much I appreciate your time.-Lora

Margaret Spellings

No Child Left Behind is President Bush’s education initiative that he signed into law in January 2002 to ensure that all students can read and do math on grade level and to close the achievement gap that exists between students of different socio-economic backgrounds. NCLB requires that every student be assessed in reading and math in grades 3-8 so that we can measure progress and make sure all students are on grade level. Before NCLB, not all students were held to the same high standards, and President Bush and I share the belief that all kids can learn if taught to high standards.

We are also in the process of looking at whether measuring individual student growth can be included in NCLB. This way of measuring how much each student learns in a year can help us show progress for kids who are above grade level. While we certainly have a lot of work to do in this area, you are right that we need to make sure our gifted students are also receiving a quality education.

Thanks for your question.

Daniel, from Great Barrington, MA writes:
Hi, I am a 15 year old who goes to an excellent boarding prep school.

My question is whether other teens my age who cannot afford private high school are getting a great education like the one I am so grateful to have? Thanks for your service to our country.

Margaret Spellings
Daniel, thanks for writing. It is the goal of President Bush and myself to make sure that every teenager can get a great education in high school. That’s why we believe that improving our nation’s high schools is the next step in education reform. Too many high school students across the country never make it to graduation day—only 68 out of every 100 ninth-graders graduate in four years. We must do better, especially when the fastest-growing jobs require at least some postsecondary education. And many other people share my concern about the state of our high schools, including Bill Gates and governors across the country.

The President has proposed extending the principles of No Child Left Behind into our nation’s high schools, so that student achievement is measured in every grade. And we have provided extra support to our high schools so that they can implement research-based reading programs for students who are not reading on grade level. We have also expanded funding for Advanced Placement programs, especially for low-income students, and the State Scholars program, which encourages high school students to take a college-ready curriculum, because we know that taking a rigorous high school curriculum improves your chances of succeeding in college. We want every student to have a high quality education like you.

Thanks for the question, Daniel, and study hard!

Tammy, from West Virginia writes:
How many current teachers do you have on your panel to help you make more informed decisions about the classroom and what you feel needs to happen there. As a teacher, I think this would be most beneficial, actual teachers on the panel.

Margaret Spellings
Tammy, thanks for teaching. You certainly have one of the most important jobs in America! I travel around the country meeting with and listening to educators to hear what is going on in the classroom. I especially value the input of teachers as I meet with them, and many of the staff members I work with every day at the Department of Education are former teachers. Maybe one day I’ll make it to your classroom in West Virginia.

Research confirms that teachers are one of the most important factors in raising student achievement. The Department started an initiative aimed directly at helping teachers. Created for teachers, by teachers, and led by a 28-year teaching veteran, the Teacher-to-Teacher initiative provides relevant resources and training for the classroom.

The Teacher-to-Teacher initiative includes teacher workshops, which are held nationwide free-of-charge for thousands of teachers, and feature some of the best teachers and principals sharing research-based practices that have been successfully applied in the classroom. The Department is also providing teacher workshop sessions online, which are provided free-of-charge at We also honor American Stars of Teaching, teachers nominated by their peers who are improving student achievement across the nation, using innovative strategies to reach students and making a difference in the lives of their students.

Finally, we provide resources to train and reward teachers. Under No Child Left Behind, the Department of Education provides nearly $3 billion to train teachers, provide professional development, and make sure they have the skills necessary to be successful in the classroom. This year, we are also proposing additional funding to reward teachers who are doing a good job in the classroom. We need to do all we can to show our appreciation for teachers across the country.

Nicole, from Seattle writes:
How does the No Child Left Behind Act benefit each struggling child?

Margaret Spellings
Hi Nicole. Good question. No Child Left Behind was created to ensure that each struggling child gets the help he or she needs to learn to read and do math on grade level.

There are many ways that struggling children benefit from the law. For one, schools are held accountable for making sure every child is learning. Children who are struggling with reading or math can no longer be ignored or left behind but rather they must be given extra help so that they can succeed.

And now, with regular assessments, teachers are better able to identify which students are struggling so that they can get them the extra help they need. And if schools don’t improve after several years, parents have new options to transfer their child to a higher-performing public school or receive free tutoring and extra help with homework through an after-school or summer tutoring program. With these kinds of opportunities, struggling children are able to get the help they need to get back on track on achieve at high levels, opening wide the door to their future.

And with the release of the Nation’s Report Card today, we are seeing that when we work hard and focus on improving student achievement, we can make great gains.

Margaret Spellings
Thanks, everyone, for these great questions. It’s great to hear from so many people who are as interested in education as I am!

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