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

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
January 21, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Orlando, Florida
Discovery Middle School
Orlando, Florida

11:33 A.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Hello everybody. I'm so glad to be here today at Discovery Middle School. I just had a really great visit in a classroom. I think most of you were there. I hope you were there. And I got to see some strategies that are being used for striving readers, for children who have reached middle school or high school level, who are behind in their reading ability, they're behind their grade level in reading. And these are strategies for teachers to use with those students so those students can catch up and catch up quickly.

I want to thank the superintendent and the principal and all the teachers here for welcoming me. I'm really thrilled to be here today.

Last night, the President talked in his State of the Union address about this very problem, the problem of children who have reached junior high or high school and can't read, and today he'll announce the budget proposal for that part of what he talked about last night, which is $100 million for the striving readers initiative.

This all goes under the big umbrella that he talked about last night of jobs for the 21st century, when he talked about strengthening community colleges so that people who are looking for jobs can be retrained for jobs in community colleges that are right in the community where the jobs are necessary. Where he talked about strengthening science and math skills because so many of the new jobs for the new century require good science and math skills.

He mentioned actually having adjunct teachers come in, scientists and mathematicians whose companies maybe would let them go teach a class or two or take a sabbatical and teach a year, scientists and mathematicians who really could bring a lot of content knowledge to high school age and college age students.

I was really particularly interested, of course, since I'm a teacher and a librarian, in this part of what he talked about last night when he talked about striving readers. And I'm really thrilled to have been here to see some examples of some ideas about what we can do for striving readers.

There's a lot of research, a lot of new research about early reading. And that early reading money is already in the No Child Left Behind Act. Most states, including I know Florida, have used that money to retrain kindergarten and first grade and second grade teachers in the principles of teaching in a systematic way, explicitly and systematically, as we heard during the roundtable discussion, reading skills to young students.

But this money, the hundred million, would be for school districts around the country to get grants so they could put in programs very much like the ones that Discovery is using today, which are research-based reading programs. We don't have as much research about adolescents and how they can be taught to read when they are several grades behind. But it's so crucial.

Every one of us know that we can just imagine what it would be like to be in the seventh or eighth or ninth or tenth grade and not be able to read very well, because all of your work by the time you're in high school depends upon being able to read in a very good way, with great skill. So it's very important that we address this issue.

A lot of students who can't read are the ones who drop out because of frustration, because of embarrassment, because of all the social problems that come with illiteracy. So I'm excited to be here today to announce the $100 million that's part of the striving readers program from the President's budget. And then also to see this great example that I think is a really great example for schools across the country.

So thank you all for coming and watching. And now I'll be glad to answer your questions.

Q No Child sets out really strict standards on teacher certification, on highly qualified teachers, and even the 60 hours for peri-professionals. Do you feel like there should be anything in terms of substitutes who are occupying an increasing number of slots in the system?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I don't know about that and I don't know those statistics specifically for Florida. But it is very important that every child have a really highly qualified teacher and that's what school districts are trying to do when they are putting in programs like this one, where teachers get a lot of support, they get extra -- many extra hours working and learning new systems. And that's what these teachers have done. And then there are people who actually come in to the schools and give those teachers support as they try to institute these new programs that they've been taught.

But teacher shortage is going to be a crucial problem in the United States. We're going to need over 2 million new teachers in the next decade. And I want to encourage people to choose teaching as a career. It's a really wonderful career. You can do more for people, I think, as a teacher than you can for almost any other -- than you can in almost any other profession. All of us remember a teacher who changed our lives and who taught us something about ourselves that we didn't know before.

I've done a lot of work with the New Teacher Project and Teach for America and Troops to Teachers, which is a federal program that tries to encourage retiring military for their second career to take up teaching back in their own home towns or wherever they want to retire after the military. And I also want to encourage recent college graduates to consider teaching.

Q Mrs. Bush, could you kind of describe what that roundtable -- what kind of took place in there and kind of some of the ideas that were kicked around?

MRS. BUSH: Well, we had -- two of the people who were at the roundtable are professors, they're PhDs. They have made a lifetime of studying reading issues. One of them, Dr. Torgenson, is from here, Florida State University. He is particularly -- has particularly studied the early childhood, early reading skills. And then Dr. Deschler, who is from Kansas University, and they've done a lot of research with adolescent reading.

And that's what we're trying to encourage school districts to do, and that is to choose programs or to develop their own programs that are research based and then to evaluate how well their students do so they will know whether or not these strategies that they're teaching work. It's just not really fair to adopt some new program and teach everyone that new program and then never know whether or not it worked. And what we really want, especially with adolescents, is a big body of knowledge on what works with adolescents, so that other schools and other school districts can copy it and children learn to read. I mean, that's the goal. The goal is to have students who can graduate from high school, who can go on to college, who can get good jobs, who can stay out of the criminal justice system, who can live rich and fulfilling lives because they are educated. Q Mrs. Bush, why Discovery to announce the new initiative? Why did you choose this particular school?

MRS. BUSH: Because they were actually already doing this program that addresses a lot of the issues that we're talking about. It's a program that's research based, it includes training teachers and retraining teachers.

This is the interesting part. When you think about the way junior high and high school is, where you go to four or five or six different classes with four or five or six different teachers, and one of the strategies that one of the teachers talked about here was being able to help his science students by using these new strategies to talk about content and really, in some ways, he's also teaching them to read. He's helping them learn to read. And I think that's why we picked Discovery, because they're already doing a program that we want other school districts nationwide to look at.

Any others?

Q Mrs. Bush, last night, the President's State of the Union took on sort of a campaign tone. Are there any thoughts about who he sees maybe facing in November, or maybe who he's looking out for? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Well, last week we thought it was going to be -- and then this week -- no. (Laughter.)

Sure, I mean, we're watching with great interest like I know the whole country is to see who the Democrats are going to nominate. It's been a very interesting process so far. We were in this a mere five years ago or four years ago, we were in the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire. And it's a really very interesting and very American process. And so of course we're interested, and I don't have any -- I'm not picking any candidates yet. (Laughter.) I'll wait and see who they pick.

Q Mrs. Bush, what kind of stood out last night of what the President said on any topic in general?

MRS. BUSH: Well, this. I liked what he talked about with this. I liked it when he talked about a program and appropriations for prisoners as they leave prison, to help them transition into society. One of the men who was sitting in the box with me was in prison for 12 years for a drug arrest and, while he was in prison, he got his graduate -- got his undergraduate degree and then his graduate degree from New York Theological Society. And when he got out of prison, he started a transitional program for offenders, to give them a place to live, to help them find a job, to give them a chance to go back into society in a good way.

And that's something that I thought was very interesting. His program and then the President calling on all of us around the country to support other programs like that, including -- and this will also include some appropriations -- money for transitional housing.

And he -- the President would like for faith-based programs to also have the opportunity to work with prisoners, as well as other charities. And I liked that. I thought that was an interesting proposal.

Q Tom Brady was your guest --

MRS. BUSH: Tom Brady was my guest.

Q Anyone else from the --

MRS. BUSH: I think we already had the list planned. And then I don't know if you noticed Tamika Catchings, who was behind me, who is an NBA player. And they were both there when the President talked about the role he hoped professional athletes -- the example he hoped professional athletes would serve for young people. And to stop using -- for professional athletes, teams and owners and players -- to address the problem of steroids. Because young people, young athletes, high school age athletes, look at them. And we want them to be really good examples for young people.

Q Speaking of steroids, how much did he see -- did your husband see during his time with the Texas Rangers?

MRS. BUSH: Well, you know, I don't know. I mean, I don't really remember ever seeing it or knowing about it on our team. But then, once again, the baseball union is very strong and you know, I don't think there's really drug testing or anything in baseball.

Q How do you think this kind of program will affect in a good way the Hispanic community --

MRS. BUSH: The immigration program, or just in general?

Q The Hispanic community.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think everything that he talked about addresses really every community. The idea of education is by far the most important piece for every community to be successful. And we need to address the gap between minority students' achievement and majority students' achievement. It's really a very critical issue for the United States, and it's an issue that all of us ought to address. Every one of us as community leaders, you certainly can in the media because there are a lot of ways you can cover all of these issues. And then, of course, education professionals have to address that issue, and that's really important.

When he talked about jobs and job retraining, that's important for every group, but certainly important for minority groups. He mentioned again his immigration proposal, about a temporary worker program which I think is a realistic way to address the problem of millions -- literally millions of illegals in the United States.

Q Last night the President mentioned a program about bringing a part-time math professionals and science professions to become teachers in schools. Are there any details of that program right now? How does he plan to attract those people to teaching in schools?

MRS. BUSH: Well, he wants to ask employers to look at that idea, the employers or companies to see if scientists and mathematicians, if they work for companies, if they either would give them time off to go teach part time one or two classes, or if they would give them the chance to do distance learning. They could actually teach on a computer, you know, with distance learning. And those are the things he's hoping to work with employers.

Because employers around the United States know that we need a very educated job force, work force. And all -- most of the new, fast-growing sectors of the economy, where there are a lot of jobs being created, have to do with either science or math or health, biotechnology. And so you really need a really good background in science or math to acquire those jobs. And I think it's a really good idea to bring in scientists and mathematicians to teach.

Q In terms of bringing those people in, they lack probably the pedagogy skills --

MRS. BUSH: That's right. And those issues would have to be addressed by school boards who would have to figure out how they could address those issues.

Q How critical do you think that is, in terms of the education schools who are graduating education majors? Do you feel like they've got the right emphasis on pedagogy versus actually knowing --

MRS. BUSH: I think it's very important to know your content material. That's very important and that's one of the things a scientist or mathematician would know, and that's really important. On the other hand, it's also really important to have had a few education classes and school districts, if they have an alternative certification program, or states, are -- can address that problem with all the kind of support that we're talking about that we talked about in the roundtable with teachers.

But teachers who have that, who have been to graduate schools or undergraduate schools with a teaching certificate and a teaching degree should keep in contact with their school that they went to and write back to them and say, you know, these classes were great, this really helped me, but I felt like you should have had more classes in this or that. And it's really a responsibility of teachers to let their universities that prepared them know what they think about it and how prepared they were when they left. I can assure you those universities want to prepare good teachers. They really do want to. And I think they would be very responsive if they heard from their students when they went out and became teachers.

All right, thanks so much for coming out. We're glad to be here in the warm weather. I think it was 19 when we left Washington. In fact, my Secret Service asked if we could stay for a week. (Laughter.)

Goodbye. Thank you all very much.

END 11:50 A.M. EST

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