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.
March 5, 2004
Meron, from Stuttgart, Germany
How's everything in Germany? Good point. While much of our public education system is good and even great, unfortunately it is not good enough for our changing world. In other words, we are pleased but not satisfied.
80 percent of new jobs will require post secondary training. Currently, 67 percent of American students graduate from high school so while our focus on education in America must continue the bar is being raised for us to do better still.
Elizabeth, from Wise,Va. writes:
Absent this, too many special-needs children, like poor children and others, are not attended to and end up left behind.
While I'm on the subject, the President has proposed major increases in IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) with his '05 budget request funding for IDEA will have increased 75 percent.
One final point, assessments given to special needs children are designed by states and should be appropriate for the skill levels of those tested. They are not as you suggest in your question "nationally mandated."
Jessie, from New York
The main educational reason for assessment is to find out the progress students are making, to correct deficiencies and to reward and praise progress.
Your ability to access tutors or additional help to meet required standards are important opportunities that should be available to all. Eliminating evaluation systems -- the ostrich approach -- is not the answer.
jill, from esquite, tx
Camilo, from Miami, FL writes:
Thanks for your time and your service to this country.
You are so right. Let me give you a few statistics.
Today, 67 percent of American students graduate from high school. 38 percent enter college. 26 percent are still enrolled at their sophomore year.
As I mentioned earlier, 80 percent of the jobs now require post-secondary training. We must do a better job in ensuring better high school graduation rates as well as making sure that those graduates take a rigorous course of study that prepares them either for college or the workforce.
Two chronic impediments are a lack of reading skills and a lack of basic math skills. That is why the President spoke in the State of the Union about the need to invest resources in both of these areas.
Wendy, from San Diego writes:
Do I take it that since you are from California, you may have some 'ins' in Hollywood? At present no one on the West Wing plays me. Though I am hoping for a cameo. I watch the show too and find that some of it can be pretty true to life. Some of the policy issues discussed are real things we work on.
One of the most memorable experiences I had earlier in the administration was watching the movie "13 Days," which is about the Cuban Missile Crisis and takes place largely in the Oval Office, with the President and Senator Kennedy in the White House theatre, which is not far from the real Oval Office.
I thought "what the heck am I doing here?"
Raul, from El Paso
Sure do miss Texas. Wish I were there to visit. No Child Left Behind is based on curriculum standard assessment systems. It is not a federal one-size-fits-all approach. Accordingly, state systems will vary from fairly rigorous to less so.
However, No Child Left Behind also calls on all states to participate in the nation's education report card called, "The National Assessment for Educational Progress."
That way we know how state accountability systems stack up compared to one another. For example, if a state says that all their students are proficient in reading but they show up dead last in the national assessment state policy makers and others can reconcile those differences.
Ruben, from Phoenix writes:
Test scores are important. Some believe we should also judge schools on: graduation rates, teacher attendance, parental satisfaction, and student attendance.
What do you think?
As I've said, testing is important but like you, we believe that states and schools should look at other indicators like graduation rates, parent satisfaction, attendance and the like. Do you want a job?
Brandon, from Tupper Lake writes:
Yes, we have special M&M's too, not to be outdone by previous administrations. In fact, our M&M's are even red, white and blue. If you will send me your address, I'll see that you get a box.
Email me quickly before the form disappears.
Perry, from Badin School, NC writes:
Teachers don't want the extra money-we want more influence on our students' lives. This comes with more control in the classroom. Therefore, the smaller numbers.
National Teachers' Boards, our own End-of-grade tests, these have divided staffs and put undue pressure on teachers, students, and parents.
I think it was Ben Franklin who said, "All education needs is a good book and a good teacher." That is still the case. Thanks for your time and the opportunity.
As the President said in the State of the Union it is not asking too much for 3rd graders to read at a third grade level. In fact, if they don't they are destined for a life of many challenges. We owe it to them to make sure they have reading and math skills to break the cycle of poverty.
The President likes to say that the best welfare reform or criminal justice reform is a sound education system.
As for class size ratios, this is a state issue and some states have taken strides to reduce class sizes. In fact, in Texas we have had a 22 to 1 class size ratio since the mid 80s (k-4).
The appropriate federal role is not to dictate things such as class size or other inputs, but to keep our eye on the results.