President  |  Vice President  |  First Lady  |  Mrs. Cheney  |  News & Policies 
History & ToursKids  |  Your Government  |  Appointments  |  JobsContactGraphic version

Email Updates  |  Español  |  Accessibility  |  Search  |  Privacy Policy  |  Help

Printer-Friendly Version   Email this page to a friend

Privacy Policy

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

Fact Sheet: The No Child Left Behind Act: Five Years of Results for America's Children

January 8, 2007

Margaret Spellings
Good afternoon. As you may know, today is the fifth anniversary of the President's signing of the No Child Left Behind Act. And like last year, I am here to answer some of your questions about the law and education in general.

Already today, I delivered an address marking the anniversary to business leaders and education leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We had tremendous support from the business community during passage of NCLB and we'll need it again this year as we aim to renew the law. Continuing the progress we've seen under NCLB is one of the President’s top priorities and today he hosted a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders at the White House where we discussed what needs to be done to reauthorize the law this year.

Thank you for taking the time to ask me some questions. Let's get started.

jack, from dallas texas writes:
what is the no child left behind act and how is it helping the american public school system?

Margaret Spellings
What a great place to start. The No Child Left Behind is the historic, bipartisan education reform effort that President Bush signed into law on January 8, 2002. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) -- the main federal law affecting education from kindergarten through high school. NCLB has many features but the core principles are the following:

  • Getting all students on grade level in reading and mathematics by 2014
  • State assessments for students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in both reading and mathematics
  • Disaggregated data that is organized by key student groups such as minority, low-income, students with disabilities, or limited English proficient students
  • Highly qualified teachers in every classroom
  • Greater flexibility around how federal funds are used
  • Information and options for parents, including public school choice and free tutoring for students when they are attending schools identified as in need of improvement

Obviously, these are the basics of the law. If you or anyone else would like more detailed information on NCLB, please go to the Department of Education's Web site or for even more specific questions, please call 1-800-USA LEARN.

debbie, from michigan writes:
Having spoken with many educators, 3 of these people are my children, funding for "no child left behind" is not available to implement the required elements of this program. How does the administration respond to lack of funding for a mandated program?

Margaret Spellings
Debbi, thanks for your question. The notion that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is an “unfunded mandate,” as many critics have charged, is simply not true. It is a myth, and several independent studies confirm this. The Department, through the No Child Left Behind Act, provides significant resources to schools.

The fact is that in the last five years, President Bush and the Congress have increased federal K-12 spending by over 40 percent.

In addition, No Child Left Behind is not a mandate; it’s a partnership between states and the federal government. This law is an agreement that says the federal government will increase its financial support for education, but if states take that money, they must accept responsibility for increasing student achievement in return. No parent thinks it’s too much to ask for his or her child to be learning at grade level. And no taxpayer thinks it’s too much to ask that schools show us how students are performing.

Timothy, from Des Moines, Washington writes:
I am wondering why it is that most schools only require 2-2.5 math credits and 4 english. In all reality math is alot more common on modern day jobs and was wondering as of the year 2008-2009 year if its possible to raise the required math credits to graduate nation wide to be a minimum of 3 credits

Thank You Tim

Margaret Spellings
Great question, Timothy. State and local educators – and not the federal government – have the responsibility to set graduation requirements for high school students. As Secretary of Education, I don’t have the authority to require a certain number of credits for high school graduation. However, I do have the responsibility to explain why high standards are necessary and to create incentives for States to raise standards. For instance, 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require postsecondary education. But fewer than half of high school students graduate ready for college-level math and science. We must raise the bar. Just five out of ten African-American and Hispanic students graduate high school on time. And only about one in ten Hispanic Americans has a college degree.

We agree that there needs to be more of a focus on math. As President Bush has said, “You’ve got to know math if you’re going to compete in this 21st-century world.” Last April, the President asked me to form a National Math Panel of experts to help us bring together the best research on proven strategies for teaching math just as we have done for reading. They will be presenting some initial findings to me this spring. The President’s budget also includes $250 million for a new program called Math Now that will help elementary and middle school students develop the academic foundation to eventually take higher-level math classes in high school, such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

Part of the problem in promoting more math education is that more than a third of high schools offer no AP classes. President Bush has called for additional funds to prepare more than 70,000 teachers to lead AP and International Baccalaureate classes in math, science, and critical foreign languages. We have also proposed an Adjunct Teacher Program that will help recruit 30,000 math and science professionals to become adjunct high school teachers in these critical areas.

And just last year, we started funding a new program, called Academic Competitiveness Grants, which provides additional Pell Grant funding to low-income college students who have completed a rigorous high school course of study. This program was created to encourage more high school students to take classes that prepare them for college, including more math and science classes. In giving out these grants, we’ve learned a lot in working with states about the significant work we have to do to get more kids eligible for these scholarships. Too often, we are not encouraging enough of our students to prepare themselves with these courses that will ensure they can go to college or get a good job when they graduate.

Lucy, from St Louis MO writes:
Ms Spellings-- In the 5 years the No Child Left Behind has been in effect, is the White House pleased with its progress or do they wish it had gone farther?

Margaret Spellings
Yes, Lucy, which is why the President would like it renewed this year. Of course, there is always room to improve, but we have achieved a lot in a relatively short amount of time. Because of No Child Left Behind, schools and parents are getting the information and help they need to focus attention and resources on the children who need it most. The result is that America’s students are doing better than ever before.

Consider the long-term Nation’s Report Card (NAEP) results, released in July 2005, which showed elementary school student achievement in reading and math at all-time highs and the achievement gap closing. For America's nine-year-olds in reading, more progress was made in five years than in the previous 28 combined.

In addition, the state-by-state Nation's Report Card results, released in October 2005, showed improved achievement in the earlier grades in which NCLB is focused. In the last two years, the number of fourth-graders who learned their fundamental math skills increased by 235,000—enough to fill 500 elementary schools!

We have made significant progress in just five years. All fifty states now have accountability plans towards the goal of having all their students on grade level in reading and math by 2014. And all fifty states are now giving annual assessments in grades 3-8 in reading and math; only a handful of states were doing this when the law passed in 2001.

And we’ve greatly increased federal spending on education, but in return, we’ve asked that schools show they are spending that money effectively. This emphasis on more resources in return for accountability is working well.

No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization this year, and it is a top priority, not just for us at Department of Education, but also for President Bush. We believe the law has substantially helped the nation’s students, and that it is essential to reaffirm and strengthen its core provisions, so that we can reach our ultimate goal of every child reading and doing math at grade level by 2014.

Joel, from Superior, WI writes:
Ms. Spellings, I hear often that No Child Left Behind is not working. Is that true, and if so, what can be done to make it even more effective? Thank You

Margaret Spellings
Thanks for your question, Joel. I just answered a question about how NCLB is working, but you have asked a great follow-up question. The Department has done a number of things to make it even more effective. The Department has started a pilot project with five states to implement “growth models” in accountability. These models would allow schools to get credit for individual student progress. We have also instituted a Partnership with states to consider better ways of assessing students who have limited English proficiency. In addition, we have been developing regulations that would allow a limited number of students with disabilities to take assessments that are modified to better meet their needs. Each of these initiatives is intended to improve the operation of NCLB while not compromising the core goals.

As we move forward, we want to affirm and strengthen the law by continuing to measure individual student progress, challenging our students by raising the level of rigor in our nation’s high schools, help states and districts turn around schools that are not closing the achievement gap, and providing more options for parents.

Gregory, from Torrance, CA writes:
Dear Secretary Spellings: How do you respond to the criticism that as a result of the testing requirements, teachers are focusing on preparing kids to pass the test rather than actually studying the various subjects? By the way, congratulations on your Jeopardy performance. Thank you.

Margaret Spellings
Thanks, Gregory. I’m a huge fan of Jeopardy, so it was a great honor to appear on the show, and it was for a good cause!

Testing is critical to accountability. Everyone knows that millions of students in this country are not learning as much as they should, and we know that more than ever before due to the annual assessments in NCLB. Everyone agrees that there is a problem. But before we can solve the problem, we need to diagnose it. In education, the way to diagnose a problem is by testing.

Testing is a fact of modern life. And tests exist for a reason—in the health care field, doctors use tests all the time to make sure we are healthy.

In education, tests are particularly important because they pinpoint where students are doing well and where they need help. This is essential if we are to know which teaching methodologies work and which ones don’t. It is also essential to figuring out which children are falling behind, so we can intervene early, instead of waiting until the problem is so bad that it might be too late to reverse it.

Felicia, from Meade County, Kentucky writes:
While "No Child Left Behind" is a noble goal, what about all the adults in our country who have already been "left behind"? Is there something in the NCLB act that helps adults who need their GED or have other remedial education needs?

Margaret Spellings
The goal of NCLB is to get all students at grade level. Increasing the number of students reading at grade level would reduce the need for remediation and adult education. And, although NCLB does not extend to adult education programs, there are two significant federal laws that provide funding for the needs of adult learners: the Adult Education and Literacy program and the Carl D. Perkins program, which are jointly administered by the Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education. These programs fund partnerships between the federal government and states to support programs for adults who either have no high school diploma, no GED, or have one of these diplomas but have reading deficiencies below the 8th grade level. Adult education programs provide funds to states for literacy programs at local high schools, volunteer community centers, and community colleges.

Jodie, from Dublin, Ireland writes:
Dear Margaret Spellings, how will the 'No Child Left Behind' Act help minority children in particular and how will it help close the achievement gap? Thank you

Margaret Spellings
Jodie, as you may know, the very cover of the law reads, "To close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind."

NCLB is working to bring all students up to grade level in reading and math, to close the nation's achievement gaps within a decade, and to hold schools accountable for results through annual assessments. NCLB helps close the achievement gap because for the first time we have data on how individual students are performing. Armed with that data we can prevent kids from falling through the cracks.

Already, we’re seeing the progress NCLB has made in closing the achievement gap. For example, National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results show that achievement gaps continue to narrow even as student populations become more diverse.

The achievement gap is starting to close, and while we have more work to do, we are headed in the right direction.

gabrielle, from florida writes:
i am doing homework and i can not find this question any where and it is about the president and figured you could help me. my teacher asks how do you know if the president is home?

Margaret Spellings
Well, I used to work over in the West Wing of the White House with the President as his Domestic Policy Advisor, so I am familiar with this question.

You can tell if the President is in the Oval Office in the West Wing if there is a ceremonial Marine standing guard.

I don’t know if I could have been as helpful if you asked me a calculus question, but I hope I helped you complete your homework assignment.

Margaret Spellings
Thank you for the great questions once again. Please don't hesitate to call the Education Department with further questions at 1-800-USA LEARN between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Happy New Year and thank you for your interest in the education of our country's students. This will be an exciting year in education and I look forward to updating you again in the future.

Printer-Friendly Version   Email this page to a friend

Issues In Focus

More Issues more issues

  |   News Current News Press Briefings Proclamations   |   Executive Orders   |   Radio   |   Appointments   |   Nominations Application   |   Offices   |   Freedom Corps   |   Faith-Based & Community   |   OMB   |   More Offices   |   Major Speeches   |   Iraq Transition   |   State of the Union   |   Saddam Capture   |   UN Address   |   National Address   |   Iraqi Freedom   |   National Address