The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 20, 2004

Remarks by First Lady Laura Bush at Media Availability
William Walker Elementary School
Beaverton, Oregon
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 questions.

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 children.

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 guidelines are.

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.

Q (Inaudible.)

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 year.

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 education.

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 achievement gap.

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 country.

All right. Thanks, you all.

END 12:10 P.M. PDT

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