The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
March 5, 2002

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers
The East Room

Backgrounder: White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers

Good morning.

Secretary Paige, Rep. (John) Boehner, Rep. (Johnny) Isakson, Rep. (Ralph) Regula, and distinguished guests:

Thank you for being here to discuss a subject that's important to all of us and to all Americans — our children and their education.

We all know that the most important ingredient in a child's education is a good teacher. And we all know that teachers need training, tools and our support to help children succeed in school.

In January, Congress passed and the President signed a historic piece of legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act. This act allows schools the flexibility to use federal funds where the local need is greatest: to recruit new teachers, to improve teacher training, or to increase teacher pay in critical need areas.

Over the next decade, American schools will need more than 2 million new teachers. The President's proposed budget provides $4 billion $2.85 billion in Title II; $1 billion in Title I and other sources of funds for teacher training, recruiting and staff development.

This conference is about making sure these teachers have what they need, and that includes:

When I was working as a teacher, I saw how important it was to have a very thorough knowledge of the subjects I was teaching; to monitor my students' progress and to adjust my teaching approach to meet their needs.

Children achieve when their teachers clearly know their subject, when they know how to teach it, and when they regularly measure their students' progress.

Many times I didn't know enough to make the right instructional decisions. A love of reading does not automatically translate into the ability to teach a child to read. Even with a degree in education and practice as a student teacher, I wasn't totally prepared for teaching reading. I took pride in my educational training, but the job was much harder than I had imagined. Some of my students were having trouble learning — not because of a problem on their part, but because I needed to know more about the concepts.

Today we know several ways to immediately improve teacher training and support:

We are here today to address these problems. We can make sure that our students are being taught by the best teachers our country has to offer. We can start by addressing three important issues:

In the months since the September 11th tragedy, I have traveled across the country from New York to Pennsylvania, Chicago to Atlanta, Baton Rouge to Los Angeles. I've visited classrooms in all of these cities. I've seen firsthand that teachers are comforting and reassuring their students. I've visited with teachers who were literally told to run with their students from a school in the shadow of the World Trade Center. These teachers are examples of courage and strength to all of us.

Wherever I go, people tell me they are reassessing their lives -- they are considering public service because they want to make a difference in their communities. Teaching is the greatest community service of all…as many professionals are finding out through alternative certification programs like the New Teacher Project.

No matter how teachers reach our classrooms, though, once there they need continuing education and feedback from their successful peers and school administrators. Teachers deserve the benefits of scientific research, as do colleges of education and alternative certification programs.

And teachers also need standards — so they know what is expected of them. Within 5 years every state will develop their standards for their new teachers.

We also must measure student achievement. We have to know if children are learning and to use this information to guide effective teaching. And parents — and the public — should know how their students and teachers are faring.

The No Child Left Behind Act, which increased education funding under the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) by more than 27 percent over last year and by more than 49 percent over 2000 levels, gives local officials much greater flexibility to tailor federal funds to meet the needs of their districts.

Schools and teachers that aren't performing need more support -- in the form of training and technical assistance. The No Child Left Behind Act provides states with substantial increased resources for these critical needs.

I hope what we hear today will help us improve our schools. We're ready to meet the challenges of having a quality teacher in every classroom.

A president of the Massachusetts Board of Education wrote a report to the Board about teacher qualification. In it, he wrote that teachers must have a thorough and critical knowledge of the subjects they're teaching. He stressed that there's simply no equivalent for a mastery of the rudiments. He also noted that the ability to teach is the power to perceive how well a student understands the subject and to know to adjust each lesson to the capacity of the student.

This report, titled "On the Art of Teaching" was written more than 160 years ago -- by Horace Mann. His words hold true today — teachers must have a thorough knowledge of the subject content, and students must be assessed so we know that they're learning.

Our obligation to America's teachers is as clear and strong as our obligation to America's children. Teachers deserve all the knowledge and support we can give them. And children deserve the quality education that comes from excellent teachers. This is their birthright.

Thank you all for coming today. I hope you enjoy the conference.

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