For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 20, 2004
Remarks by First Lady Laura Bush at Media Availability
William Walker Elementary School
May 19, 2004
12:00 P.M. PDT
MRS. BUSH: Hello. I'm so glad to be here today. I'm really
excited to be here in Oregon at the William Walker Elementary School.
They are a great example for other schools here in the state and for
schools around our country, a school that's used the Reading First
money that you can get from the No Child Left Behind Act, to make sure
their kindergarten, first, second and third grade students learn to
read, so that when they leave the third grade, they have met our
national goal, the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act, and that is to
make sure every child learns to read by the third grade.
We were joined this morning by Dr. Ed Kame'enui, who is -- he is
from the University of Oregon. And I don't know if you know that the
University of Oregon's education department was one of the first
universities to crack the code, so to speak, of how children learn to
read. And there are three -- Secretary Rod Paige set up three Reading
First technological assistance schools that can help other elementary
schools and high schools with Reading First around the country, and one
is here at the University of Oregon. The other two are at the
University of Texas and Florida State University.
So a lot of the reading research that's used in this school and
used around the country started here actually at the University of
Oregon in their education department. So you've got a great resource
in your own state of people that you can use for you first and other
educational initiatives that try to make sure children learn to read.
In the roundtable, you heard a very important part of Reading
First, and in fact a very important part of teaching, and that is
testing. And that's to make sure the children you're teaching have
learned what you want them to learn, while you still have time to
adjust your curriculum or adjust your teaching before the end of the
schooling year. And they talk about these one- or two-minute tests
that they give. It's not anything punitive but, instead, it's a way to
diagnose problems that students have so that school districts and
teachers and principals can address those problems.
So I'm really glad to be here. And now I'll be glad to take your
Q Mrs. Bush, there have been a few changes to the No Child Left
Behind Act --
MRS. BUSH: No, no, a lot of the changes had to do with special
education students, the students with disabilities. And I think that
those were necessary. But I also think it's absolutely necessary for
children with disabilities to be included as much as they possibly can
be in academic work at every school, at every level that they can be
included. And I think that's an important part of it. But that's part
of the changes in the No Child Left Behind Act and that came from the
Secretary of Education who was here recently.
The No Child Left Behind -- the requirements of states and school
districts under the No Child Left Behind Act are difficult. It
requires the state department of educations and local school districts
and schools to be organized, to organize themselves to do hard work.
For instance, the work they had to do to receive the money here, the
Reading First money at William Walker.
But also, we all know that that's what our children deserve. We
expect them to do hard work when they come to school. And I know
parents and community leaders also expect everyone who is involved in
schools, from their state department of education down to the
classroom, to do hard work. That's what our children deserve. It's
incumbent upon us as adults and teachers and principals and community
leaders to make sure we're doing the very best we can for our
And it's not fair to let them move through first and second and
third and fourth and fifth and then end up in the ninth grade and not
know how to read. Those are the children who drop out, usually, the
students who drop out, the ninth graders who have gotten that far.
And if you only do what they did before, which is test once at the
end of the year, then you let some children waste the whole year,
because you haven't addressed the problems that they have. So there's
no doubt it's hard. There are a lot of things that require a lot of
organization on the part of education departments and school districts
because of the No Child Left Behind Act.
When it was passed in 2001, there were only 11 states that had met
the requirements that preceded No Child Left Behind Act, turning in the
federal guidelines that you were supposed to turn in to the federal
government about what your accountability plans were, for instance.
And now, since the No Child Left Behind Act, all 50 states have met the
requirements of turning in to the federal government what their own
And all 50 states devised their own tests, they devised their own
curriculum. Schools are still local. The decisions are really made by
the local people and what they want the students to learn. For
instance, what's in the curriculum, what materials they buy to support
the curriculum to teach. That's all still a local choice. And I think
that's very, very important. Because I think local people are the ones
who know their kids and can make the best choices for them.
Q Senator Kerry has come out criticizing the act saying that
it's not fully funded. How do you respond to that?
MRS. BUSH: Well, it's been funded. It's funded more than any
previous education bill. There is more money associated with the No
Child Left Behind Act and there has ever been before in any education
bill. And school districts and state departments of education are
starting to draw down on that money and the President has proposed more
money in the 2005 budget.
But there is this money, these Reading First grants that school
districts can apply for and get. And, like I said before, it does
require some planning and some organization on the parts of the school
districts and the schools to apply for these funds.
But I think it's really well funded. It's better funded than any
other previous education bill in our history.
Q -- way the Act has been instituted --
MRS. BUSH: Well, in some states. Certainly, in Oregon in general
it has been very, very well received and very well taken advantage of.
And now that we know that all 50 states, for instance, have turned in
their accountability plans and their guidelines and -- you know, I
think that's good. It shows the school districts and states are really
paying attention to the goals of No Child Left Behind -- which I am
sure are also the goals of all schools and all teachers.
MRS. BUSH: Well, I think there are a lot, of course. And there
will be, I'm sure, more adjustments to the act itself as school
districts try to meet these -- the goals of No Child Left Behind.
But because it is locally devised, the federal government doesn't
tell states what they have to teach, for instance. They tell states
what the goals are, like to make sure children learn to read by the end
of the third grade. But all those goals are based on a lot of the new
research about reading that show that if you don't learn to read by the
end of the third grade, your chances of learning to read decrease every
And, as you get older, by the time you're in high school, for
instance, almost a hundred percent of your work is dependent on your
reading ability. You know, you can't really succeed in history or in
science if you can't read. So it's the one skill that we have to make
sure every student learns.
I'm very proud of the No Child Left Behind Act and I'm proud of the
ways schools and states all across the country are rallying to meet the
goals of that act. It's also their -- the same goals, we all have the
same goals. And that's to make sure every child gets a great
There is a very large achievement gap between poor school
districts, Title I schools, and the students in poor schools and the
students in more affluent schools. And that's what we have to
address. It's not fair in our country to have that much of an
Anything else? Okay, thank you all. Good to see you all --
Q -- your husband criticized for the behavior of --
MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm sorry about that. But I do know that those
prison photos don't reflect the vast majority of our military men and
women. And they certainly don't reflect the values of the people of
the United States of America. And I know that. It's terrible, but the
good news in our country is those people will be prosecuted. There
will be transparency in what happened, and that's one of the benefits
of living in a free country.
But I'm sorry about those photographs and I'm sorry about what
happened to the Iraqi prisoners, because it doesn't reflect our
All right. Thanks, you all.
END 12:10 P.M. PDT