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NCLB Outrages

No Child Left Behind Receives High Marks at Business Roundtable Forum

What a surprise. NCLB receives high marks from the Business Roundtable and their political cronies. Here's the latest from the recent NCLB love-in at the Business Roundtable. Do you still think this is a conservative agenda (or that Kennedy is a liberal)? First is the press release summary. Below that is the transcript.

Press Release

Washington DC – Leaders from both parties, the state and federal governments, and the business community gave a strong endorsement today to the No Child Left Behind Act as a major driving force for educational improvement, but acknowledged that implementation is challenging.

Their comments came at the third annual forum sponsored by Business Roundtable at the National Press Club entitled, “The Administration, the Congress and the States: What’s Ahead for No Child Left Behind?”

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Representative Michael Castle (R-DE), Mississippi State Superintendent Henry Johnson, Assistant U.S. Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Ray Simon, and Joseph Tucci, President and CEO of EMC Corporation and Chairman of Business Roundtable’s Education and the Workforce Task Force, spoke at the event.

“No Child Left Behind says every child has the right to a quality education and a chance to succeed,” Spellings said. “Accountability plus high expectations plus resources equal results. Test scores are rising and the achievement gap is beginning to close.”

Tucci said, “We want the United States to have nothing less than the strongest economy and most skilled workers in the world.” No Child Left Behind “has given public education in America a foundation for improvement,” Tucci said. “Business Roundtable believes it is time to build on that foundation with a dramatic, increased commitment to math and science.”

Kennedy called for greater investment in math and science to “meet the challenge of globalization.” He also said he wanted to work with the Administration in the area of early education, citing research on the importance of child development from birth through age five.

Asked by the forum’s moderator, Richard Whitmire, editorial writer for USA Today, to grade No Child Left Behind, Kennedy, Castle, and Johnson all gave it high marks. Kennedy gave the law an A in concept and an incomplete on funding; Castle gave it an A; and Johnson’s grade was A in concept and B or B+ in implementation.

Castle said the law strikes “a reasonable balance in terms of where we have to go.”

Johnson said he was “unabashedly a supporter of No Child Left Behind—not because it’s perfect, but because it’s right.”

“Not to support it would make me a hypocrite,” he said. “For years educators have said there is no excuse for not learning. No Child Left Behind says, ‘that’s right.’ We expect, regardless of extraneous factors, high levels of attainment from all children.”

“The underlying principle is that adults should not make excuses for lack of student success,” Johnson said.

Kennedy and Castle agreed that any improvements to No Child Left Behind should be through regulation, not legislation, before it is reauthorized.

The subject of high school reform also was prominent.

“We must continue to pay attention to grades 3-8, but we must also finish the job and build on that work in high schools,” Spellings said. She pointed to the vast amount of spending by American companies and universities “to help kids catch up.”

“We need to restore the value of a high school diploma,” Spellings said.

Castle expressed strong support for high school reform but cautioned against funding President Bush’s initiative for high schools “on the back of vocational education.”

Asked about granting waivers from No Child Left Behind, Simon said, if we “hand them out, we will be back in ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), the ‘we didn’t mean it law.’ We don’t want a generation of children ‘waived away’ from academic excellence,” he added.

Asked what they thought would happen when National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are released later this year, panelists all predicted a rise in those scores.

“We will see a narrowing of the (achievement) gap, but we will still have a long way to go,” Simon said.

# # #

Business Roundtable (www.businessroundtable.org) is an association of chief executive officers of leading corporations with a combined workforce of more than 10 million employees in the United States and $4 trillion in revenues. The chief executives are committed to advocating public policies that foster vigorous economic growth and a dynamic global economy.

SPEECHES & TESTIMONY Released: 2.9.05

Business Roundtable Forum Transcript



9:25 – 11:00 A.M.








MR. TUCCI: Good morning. I’m Joe Tucci. Business Roundtable has supported No Child Left Behind from the beginning. And we remain a strong supporter today. No Child Left Behind has given public education in America a foundation for improvement. It’s beginning to close the achievement gap, improving the quality of teaching in our classroom, and at long last, holding schools accountable for student performance. However, if America is to maintain its competitive position in the global economy, Business Roundtable firmly believes we need to quickly and dramatically increase our commitment to the education on a math and sciences in our schools.

I also hope we can get into the question of implementation. The implementation of No Child Left Behind is no easy task. We talk to educators on the frontline, and we know the law is not perfect. But it is a good start and its impact will be greater if we work together to make it succeed and strengthen it.

Now let me introduce our very distinguished speakers. We are honored that our new Secretary of Education is with us, Margaret Spellings. For 10 years, she has worked by the president’s side in education, four years in the White House, and six years before that in Texas. In addition to being a strong and knowledgeable leader, she is also a good listener. And we are proud to have her with us in one of her first public appearances as secretary. Secretary, thank you very much for being with us.


We’re also honored to have Senator Edward Kennedy with us today. As you know EMC is from Massachusetts. It’s a Massachusetts corporation, and I am incredibly honored and pleased to be able to call Senator Kennedy my senator. He has been a champion of education for more than 40 years. Three years ago, President Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in a ceremony with the senator at Boston Latin School, the first public school in America where the senator’s father happened to graduate in 1908. Senator Kennedy played a major role in the law’s passage and he has carefully monitored its implementation as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Senator, we’re honored to have you with us.


We also have with us Representative Mike Castle of Delaware. Like Senator Kennedy, Congressman Castle played a key role in the writing of No Child Left Behind. He’s best known as a pragmatic leader who builds bridges across partisan lines, seeking solutions to some of the biggest dilemmas that confront policy makers. Today he serves as the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Education Reform. Congressman, thank you for being with us.


We are very pleased that Henry Johnson is with us today, too. We wanted to include a practitioner, someone with day-to-day responsibility for improving teaching and learning. As Superintendent of public schools in Mississippi, Henry Johnson has earned a reputation as one of the most respected state education chiefs in America. Henry, thank you very much for being with us.


Also joining us on the panel is Ray Simon, assistant secretary of education for elementary and secondary education. Prior to his appointment by President Bush, Ray Simon was director of the Arkansas department of education and before that, a mathematics teacher and professor. Secretary Simon, thank you for being with us.


And finally, we are very fortunate to have Richard Whitmire with us to serve as our panel moderator again this year. He’s a member of the editorial board of USA Today where he write editorials on education and other issues. He previously covered national security at the Pentagon and his background includes classroom experience as a high school English teacher. Richard, thank you.


Well again, Business Roundtable is really thrilled and pleased to host this event. And without further ado, I would like to bring up Secretary Margaret Spellings to address you. Now Margaret does have another appointment later today, so after her remarks she will leave, but we’re very privileged that this is going to be one of her first public appearance before us today. Secretary, thank you.

SECRETARY MARGARET SPELLINGS: Thank you, Joe. Good morning everybody. I appreciate that kind introduction. One of, I hope many kind introductions that I’ll get in this job.

I want to thank Senator Kennedy for being here today. As Joe said, he was one of the chief sponsors of No Child Left Behind and his work reminds us that Americans on both sides of the aisle can come together on behalf of children. And I hope that we can continue to do that on lots of other issues. I look forward to that. On a personal note, I want to thank Senator Kennedy for his support for my nomination as Secretary. Like the president tells the folks at the Crawford coffee shop, I like the fella. (Laughter.) I look forward to working with him.

I also appreciate Congressman Mike Castle again for being here today. He chairs the Subcommittee on Education Reform and has a lot to do this year. It has been a pleasure to work with you these past four years Congressman.

And thank you Henry Johnson. As Joe said, he’s the Superintendent in Mississippi and what I tell my folks over at the department of education is, we don’t educate any kids up there. It’s the Henry Johnsons and the great educators of this country who are doing the hard work of closing the achievement gap. And so, we are a partner with them, but the real hard work of this law is going on at the local level. So Henry, thank you for what you’re doing and congratulations on the great results you’re getting down there.

Finally, I’m happy to see Ray Simon, my colleague from the Department of Education. He serves as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. We’re lucky to have him. He brings a very practical approach to implementing this law, and I’m grateful to have him at the department.

I often like to joke that No Child Left Behind is my youngest child, and I’m now about three years postpartum, still haven’t lost all my baby weight, but I’m working on it. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been three years since the president has signed this law, and like with any child, they do grow up so fast. I want to give Business Roundtable a lot of credit for their assistance in passing this law and in helping keep the reform fires burning in states across America to implement this law in a sensible and workable way.

Thank you for having this belated birthday party for No Child Left Behind. We’ve just recently celebrated that anniversary and I’m glad that you’ve convened this meeting, Joe. I appreciate your support for educational reform. You’ve been a reliable and true friend to American education. You understand that today’s students will be your future work force and the next generation of voters and citizens. And you want them to be ready to excel in the jobs of the 21st century, as we do.

When we passed No Child Left Behind, we had that goal as well. No Child Left Behind said that every child has the right to a quality education and the chance to succeed in the 21st century. It said that we should measure children’s progress from year to year so we can discover where they need help before it’s too late. It said that schools should be accountable for making sure every child reads and does math on grade level over a period of time. And it said when schools fall short of their responsibilities that parents ought to have information and options for their children. Now in return for our investment in education we’re insisting on results and accountability. We’ve learned a new equation, part of our math initiative. Accountability plus high expectations plus resources equal results. And as a result, across the nation, children’s test scores in reading and math are rising, with minority and disadvantaged students leading the way.

After many long decades, the pernicious achievement gap that we talk about is beginning to close. But we have more work to do. The first round of No Child Left Behind reforms focused on grades three through eight. And we must continue to pay attention to those grades, to the important reforms of reading, to highly qualified teachers and the like. But we must finish the job and build on that work in our high schools. Every child needs to graduate with the skills to succeed in higher education or in the workplace or in the military and for their futures. And right now, we’re falling short of that goal. Let me talk about a few disturbing statistics that you probably are aware of, but just to put at the front of your mind.

Out of a class of 100 entering 9th graders, only 68 will graduate from high school on time. Just 68, meaning about a third of the entering ninth grade class will not graduate high school on time. One recent study found that 32 percent of those students leave high school with the skills to be successful in college and to complete college. And about 27 of those entering ninth graders are even in college or community college in their sophomore year. That, in a day and time, when about 80 percent – and I know you all know this better than I do – of the fasting growing jobs in this economy require at least that level of skill. So we have a skills gap. We’ve also seen that American 15 year olds lag behind the world in math. And Joe, I’m pleased that you all have taken up that banner here at Business Roundtable. With these statistics, it should come as no surprise that American companies and universities must spend billions of dollars each year to help these kids catch up. We face a skills gap, which leaves high school graduates unprepared to be successful. We must restore the meaning of a high school diploma. A diploma must represent a ticket to success in the 21st century.

The president has proposed a new one and half billion dollar high school initiative to help close this skills gap. This initiative will allow high schools to develop timely intervention programs to help students at risk of falling behind or dropping out. As part of this initiative, we’re asking states to expand testing in high schools and we will provide the funds to do it just as we have with assessments in grades three through eight. Without assessment, there is no way of measuring the progress that students are making. And without testing, there can be no accountability for result.

Governors around the country, democrat and republican alike, agree that we must strengthen our high schools. As we learn more and more about the economy of the future, we must focus on giving our children the skills they will need. For example, leading employers have told us that math skills are essential to success in our future and yet two thirds of employers give high school graduates fair to poor marks in math. And that’s why the president has proposed a 120 million dollar math initiative to strengthen the quality of math instruction in our high schools and middle schools. We also know that the fastest growing jobs require post-secondary education and as we prepare more and more students for the challenges of higher education, we must make the dream of college more available to low-income students.

That’s why the president’s budget expands funding for Pell grants to more than 19 billion dollars over the next 10 years. The maximum student grant would increase from its current level of 4,050 dollars to 4,550 dollars over the next five years. The budget also includes $33 million for a new enhanced Pell grants for state scholars program, which will reward students who take the most rigorous course loads in high school and have worked hard to prepare for college. Enhanced Pell grants will provide an additional 1,000 dollars to low-income students who undertake a demanding high school curriculum. Financial troubles should not dim a student’s hopes of attending college.

If America is to remain the best place to do business in the world, we must continue to stay the course on No Child Left Behind. And we must extend these benefits of the law into high schools. We must continue to listen to you, the business leaders of America, who have a unique understanding about what skills our children will need to be successful. I have given you a lot of statistics and most of them are sobering. I know you recognize the importance of strengthening high schools and strengthening math, and I know you understand the importance of accountability to reforming public education. Now we need your help again. Our work will not be complete until we have extended the principles of no child left behind to our high schools and into mathematics. Help me spread the message around the country. America’s economic future depends on our success. I look forward to working with you. I look forward to working with the panelists here today and with educators across the country. I look forward to getting out to your communities and hearing what your experiences are with the law. And I thank you very much for you attention and your support.


MR. WHITMIRE: Well, thank you, Secretary Spellings. I think we all know that No Child Left Behind endured a few bumps in the recent presidential campaign, but one reason it’s still around and about to expand is not because it’s perfect, but because rather its critics, at least in my opinion, have yet to come up with another way to tackle the steep racial and poverty learning gaps that our schools endured for years. The bumps are going to continue for No Child Left Behind, and if we want to take this opportunity to start by asking each of the panelists to speak about the law for a few minutes, its future and also, give it a grade if you will. And Senator Kennedy, we would like to start with you, your choice.

SENATOR KENNEDY: Thank you very much, and it’s a pleasure to be back with Business Roundtable. Not many weeks ago, we had the chance of coming together to talk about another area of public policy which we are attempting to work with you and with the administration in a bipartisan way in the Senate and that’s the use of information technology and the impact of information technology and what it can do in terms of lowering the cost and terms of health care. And we’re continuing that process, so we thank all of you for your good leadership in that area.

And I join with Secretary Spellings in commending Business Roundtable in giving focus and attention to strengthening the education system in our country. You deserve great credit for the work that you did in achieving No Child Left Behind and it has been a tradition of this institution in terms of challenging all of us in Congress and local communities to do better in terms of education. And I am particularly grateful for Joe Tucci and his company for the work, not only that they do in the Business Roundtable but also what they have done in my state of Massachusetts.

And as I will mention in just a moment or two, the work that was done in Massachusetts in, 10 years ago, really 7 years before we had No Child Left Behind and the work that was done with the No Child Left Behind has been Massachusetts as the number one state in the country for fourth graders in math and science, of math and reading tied for the number one state in the country for eighth graders and under the NAEP test. So what we’re talking about here and what were the basic principles in No Child Left Behind work. And that is a very encouraging factor. It’s rather simple actually. It was to let the states make judgment decisions about what children ought to know at what grade level.

And then to make sure that the children were going to have a well qualified, that was going to teach the curriculum. And do it in a setting which was small enough so that they were going to have a well trained teacher in a class where the teacher could be the most effective, anywhere from 15 to 18 children because we have seen in other states where they did the review and the evaluations, the children in those kinds of settings learn quicker and do better when they have a smaller class size and a well-trained teacher.

And then to do a review, an examination for what these children are learning. And it should be, from the children’s point of view, it shouldn’t be looked at as something that is going to be dangerous or something negative, but something that’s going to be positive because at the end of the day when we find out where those children are falling behind, we’re going to provide them with supplementary services so that the children are going to move along and move along together with their class. That’s the basic concept and you’re going to have accountability, you’re going to have parents understanding what is happening in the schools so that they know whether the schools are getting the skilled teachers or whether they aren’t. Information so that parents are going to know what schools are making progress in the recent – why they’re making progress and other schools aren’t. So you’re creating the kind of leverage from the ground up in order to strengthen the education system and develop the kind of effort and energy in the local community. And that works my friends. That works. And we have seen again, as I mentioned in our own state of Massachusetts, about how that has worked.

The real challenge, the problem is that I feel – so I give the concept of the No Child Left Behind an A. I think it is going the right way. In terms of funding the No Child Left Behind, I’m going to call it Incomplete because we’re going to have a chance and an opportunity during the Congress to try and make sure that we’re going to have the kinds of resources to do it. When we decided to go to the moon with President Kennedy, we put our astronauts on the moon and then we brought them back. When we did the Medicare program for all Americans, we made sure that all Americans, all our senior citizens, were going to participate in the Medicare program. When we passed a voting rights act and said we’re going to knock down the walls of discrimination, we said we were going to knock the walls of discrimination down, for everyone. Not just three quarters. Not 75, 70 percent, but all. And my very serious concern is, in the legislation itself, we guarantee to the American people, proficiency over a 12 year period and still, we’re going to find that we’re leaving anywhere from three to four million children behind. And that, I think is something that we have to address.

This nation, when it was faced with the industrial period, passed the public school system effectively. The next great challenge that we faced was World War II, and in World War II, what did we do? We passed the GI Bill. Eight dollars was returned for every dollar that we invested in that greatest generation when they came back from World War II. In the 1950’s, when this nation was challenged by Sputnik, what did we do? We had the national defense education act and we ended up spending five percent – five cents out of every dollar – that was spent, was spent on education in this country. Now we’re facing the challenge of globalization, and we are down to two cents out of every dollar. I think this is – money doesn’t solve all of the problems. It doesn’t solve all the problems at education, but it’s an indication of where our nation’s priorities are.

And if we are going to see what our priorities are in reaching the – (inaudible) – of globalization, I feel quite frankly, we’re either going to grab the challenge of globalization and wrestle it and make sure that every young person and old person is equipped to deal with globalization, every state is equipped to deal with globalization, our country is in terms of our ability to compete internationally at the end of the trail, we’re going to be able to ensure that we’re going to have a national security and a national defense that’s going to be able to deal with globalization – when the Chinese are graduating three times as many engineers as we are today, when the Chinese and Indians are graduating three times as many computer scientists today as we are graduating today. The idea that we are going to be able to maintain our position in terms of technology in thirty or forty years without having the kinds of investment in math and in science and in those other disciplines, I think is missing the boat completely.

And if you look over, I don’t know what happened to the chart – if you look over what happened to the chart and see the difference between where we are in terms of – that’s a great looking chart -- (laughter) – could you bring it over please? Just bring it right over. Is this the way I’ve been showing these charts for the last – (inaudible)? Let me just because these charts – this isn’t going to make it, but – if you look here, in 1975 – this is the percentage of natural science degrees for a hundred 24-year olds. It includes math and science and engineering. We are third in the world, year 2000. Now we are 15 in the world and we are going down.

This really calls for the kind of focus and attention and energy that Business Roundtable is noted for. Final two points that I’ll make -- I hope very much that we’re going to be able to work with the administration and terms of early education. If you read that neurons to neighborhoods which is the accumulation of the best of the national academy of science, they demonstrate, then show about how a child’s brain develops. And really from the time the child is born all the way through 5, it has enormous capability for absorption in terms, and not only intellectual skills, social skills, and other cognitive skills during that period of time. You didn’t see on that last chart, but most of the countries that are moving up on us all have the early kinds of intervention and early education capabilities. And this is something that the states, 38 states are working on it. We ought to be able to find – Mrs. Bush is a very, very strong believer in it. Without expending a whole new program, getting people excited about a new governmental program.

It does seem to me – we ought to be able to sort of find the ways of trying to do a better job in the early education. The Perry preschool programs, the Ypsilanti programs, the Beethoven projects – all demonstrate that the children stay in school, they have less trouble with the law, they continue their education and go on into college – all the economic indicators. That’s something that we ought to be able to do and do in this.

Finally, bring the chart out on the competition. Let me mention just this, which I hope will just trigger your thinking. We have listened to the secretary talk about access and availability to college. It does seem to me – when we have about 40 billion dollars a year that are going off on student loans, that there is no reasons that we shouldn’t have competition to find out who can provide those student loans at the lowest possible price and give the benefits of that to lowering tuition for students. We don’t do that. We have a – any company that’s represented – wouldn’t you like a guaranteed loan. Guaranteed by the federal government; 98 percent guaranteed. Some of the children that are on these loans are paying 9.5 percent with a guaranteed loan program.

There are requirements in the higher education act that say if a student consolidates their loans once, they can’t do it again. It’s prohibited in our higher education program. Let’s let the competitive forces have competition – we have competition in various federal programs – this is just a sample of some of the areas that we have competition and permit competition. Why shouldn’t we try and do that, at a time when we see the costs of education and the higher education is going up 30 percent? We have that kind of opportunity. We ought to be able to put that out and say, let’s have a competition. And you’re simply able to do that and pass the benefit on to those families and to those students. That’ll be a big battle in the Congress. The votes aren’t there today, but it is an issue that I would certainly hope Business Roundtable would take a look at and just say, finally, we’re very interested in continuing to work with you and the priorities of education – we think it’s the key to everything that’s important, the hopes and dreams of children. It’s the key to our democracy. It’s the key to our economy. It’s the key to our national security and national defense. And we have great respect for all the good work you’ve done in the past and we look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you very much.


MR. WHITMIRE: Congressman Castle, do you want to come up here? Or you can –

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE CASTLE: I’ll take it here. And thank you to Business Roundtable. I’m very pleased to share the honor of being in this distinguished panel to discuss education with you today. And I’ll try to be somewhat brief here and start by saying that I – and this may do great damage to his career or mine – but I agree with most of what Senator Kennedy said here today. (Laughter.) We may differ a little bit on the funding issue, and I have charts and he has charts. He’s got more charts than I do I think – to into that. But other than that, I think his goals are my goals. In fact I think the goals of everybody in this room are exactly the same, and that is to educate all of our children. I believe in holistic education. Just as he mentioned before, I’ve been very involved in trying to revamp Head Start successfully. Yet, I worry about the Pell grants as well. So there’s a lot to education that we need to consider in this country and it’s beyond just K through 12.

But we are here to talk about No Child Left Behind, and we’re here to see what we can do with that. We’re asked to give it a grade. I remember when I was in school, I would get like, maybe a C. And it would say, Mike gets a C, but he could be doing this, he could be doing that, and there would be about 16 buts after it explaining what I should have been doing, and the grades seemed to mean nothing. I give No Child Left Behind an A with a few buts attached to it that frankly, still need to be dealt with in terms of where we’re going in education. The A – the reason I give it an A is, is that a lot of us got together from the very liberal to the very conservative side of the Hill, the president of the United States and decided something had to be done about education in America.

I’ve been dealing with this issue since 1980, when I was elected lieutenant governor of Delaware and later governor for a couple of terms. And we simply could not change education the way we wanted to, in terms of really educating our children more. There was a lot of resistance to this, and I got involved immediately with a business group as a matter of fact, in 1981 for the first time ever in the state of Delaware, looking at what we could do in education. We started to move it a little bit. And it still didn’t really move all that much. And then finally with No Child Left Behind, we have really put in standards and assessments involving testing. It’s very hard to support all that at this time.

It’s attacked from both the right and the left. There are those who say there’s too much federal intervention in education now, and many of my conservative friends are saying that we can’t do anything about the high schools and we shouldn’t do anything about the high schools. In fact, if anything, we should undo No Child Left Behind. Many of my liberal friends are saying this is under funded. We really need to be doing more than we’re doing at the present time. I think in reality, we’ve hit a reasonable balance in terms of where we have to go.

I think if you follow the NAEP – the National Assessment for Education Progress – testing in this country, you will find some great improvements in NAEP. We in Delaware have been fortunate. We’ve had among the highest improvements in a lot of categories during this period of time. I think you need to have some form of measurement in terms of what we’re doing and that’s why the assessments are so important. And you need standards as well. And many people say, well this is really a federal bureaucracy, imposing themselves on education. Well, to an extent it is, it’s an umbrella all right. But every one of our states as we are probably going to hear shortly, has a state plan that’s been submitted. In the case of Delaware, a plan submitted and a revised plan submitted. It’s a state plan that is doing it. And frankly, it isn’t a lot different than what we were doing in Delaware already. We had standards and assessments and so we were able to live with that.

Some of the educators have attacked us as well, particularly some of my friends in the Delaware State Education Association, the NEA, et cetera. I don’t agree with what they are doing there either. I believe that we do need highly qualified teachers. Maybe we have to go back and look at the definitions of some of these, but the truth of the matter is, that we are in my judgment doing extraordinarily well with respect to that. This is one of the few pieces of legislation that has had bipartisan cooperation in this Congress. We also did it on IDEA recently. I worked with Senator Kennedy and others on that. We’ve done it on education research. We are saying that members of Congress across the board are beginning to understand that we do need to do more as far as education is concerned. And it’s a rising tide situation.

Why do I like No Child Left Behind? I like it because it disaggregates the information. I believe that if you are running a school system, if you are trying to educate the children – frankly, you have to educate the children with disabilities, you have to educate the children who are in minority groupings or low income. These may historically have been more difficult populations, but every bit as important as anybody else. And as a result of that, I think we see that happening. We had a very sharp critic in my Gannett as a matter of fact – newspaper at home – on education, and she was writing critically about No Child Left Behind on a pretty regular basis. But every single story had in it, an example of a school where they were making adjustments so they could help solve the problems they had because they had not made adequate yearly progress.

I’ve seen that virtually in every story on education in the last three years: what the schools are doing to make a difference. And so we had a big jump in our schools that qualified last year in Delaware and across the United States of America. We’re seeing our test scores slowly creep up; and then there’s always the discussion of, “Well, the standards and assessments are different in different states.” Well, they are to a degree; and we do have different states so that may not be all bad, and I think we’ll have that discussion later today as well.

We need to still do a lot in Congress, and clearly there are going to be some funding issues this year that we’ll be taking up that are going to be a matter of concern to everybody. I’m concerned about vocational education, for example, and I don’t want to do the high school program the president wants to do on the back of vocational education. It’s just an issue that we are going to have to deal with. I’ve indicated, the readiness gap is something that we have to do more about; and I think we do have make sure that we’re preparing our college students, as Senator Kennedy pointed out, as well as any country in the entire world so that’s something we have to work on also. But I believe that we have taken the right step three years ago in No Child Left Behind. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that out there, but I believe that concern is turning into very beneficial efforts to make sure that we’re educating each child in this country better than we were before; and so for that reason, I’m very enthusiastic about what we’ve done. I’m very defensive of it wherever I go – fight for it. And I believe, ultimately, we’re going to look in about 10 years and say, “That is the single best thing we’ve ever done for education in this country. Thank you.


MR. WHITMIRE: Thank you, Congressman. I should say that Senator Kennedy has a mark up and has to leave, but there will be a stand-in for Q and A later. Thanks, Senator. Mr. Johnson.

MR. HENRY JOHNSON: Good morning. Let me start by simply saying that I’m unabashedly a supporter of No Child Left Behind, not because it’s perfect in its implementation, but because it’s right. It’s the right thing to do. In fact, I get asked occasionally – actually, frequently – why am I such a supporter? And I my response is, “To be otherwise would make me a hypocrite.” For years and years, many educators have said there should be no excuse for a student learning – students not learning. We should not expect less of students who come from more challenging environments. We should not expect less of students who happen to be minority or who are ethnically different. We should expect the same level of achievement for all of our students. But what No Child Left Behind does is to say, “That’s right.” It says that regardless of all those extraneous factors, we expect a high level of education attainment from all students.

Just think a moment about the importance of this enterprise called education. Over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson said, “The purpose of school is to train citizens to participate in the democracy.” I think that’s the best stated purpose of this business – schooling – that I’ve ever seen, and I think that applies. Think further about the one public entity that is charged with assigning from generation to generation the knowledge, the values, the mores, the institutions that this society holds dear; and there’s only one public institution that’s so charged, and that’s public schools. So to expect less of students because of their economic circumstances or because of their gender or race or ethnicity is improper; and No Child Left Behind says, “That’s not acceptable.” So, the grade that I would give No Child for its concept is an A – the highest possible score.

The implementation of it is less than perfect, but that’s alright. Many states already had some type of accountability system – or several states – I don’t know. Not most of them, but several states had some type of accountability system already in place. We had one in North Carolina when I was there. One was put in place in Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas; and several other states already had a high stakes accountability program. Based on what I think is a very straightforward proposition. The purpose of schools is to teach kids, and it’s very easy to determine. Either it’s happening or it’s not. Kids are learning or they’re not learning; and it is the responsibility of the adults in the system to make sure the kids learn. Now that doesn’t mean that parents and other family members and community members and all of those folk don’t also have a role, and the child certainly has to bring something to the table. But the bottom line is, if you want kids to succeed in school, make it in the best interest of adults that they succeed; and that’s what No Child Left Behind does so I give it very high marks for its concept. Probably B, B+ for implementation. There are some things yet to be worked out. There are some conflicts in what’s required in No Child Left Behind vis-à-vis children with special needs and what’s in IDEA; but those things can be worked out, and I know people are already thinking along those terms and trying to work things out. But it is the thing to do. It will make a difference for not only the individual, but it will make a difference for society if we hold true, if we hold fast, and continue to require a rigorous curriculum experience for all of our students.

Some of you are aware of the work done by the Education Trust where they’ve pretty much identified five factors that seem to help students, regardless of background, be successful: a rigorous curriculum experience taught by an excellent teacher who routinely uses challenging tasks with proper assessments and small learning environment. When we put those things in place, our students, regardless of background, seem to learn. My friend Howard Lee, who’s a former state senator, now the chairman of the State Board of Education, is in the audience – Howard, it’s good to see you – and when I was in North Carolina, prior to No Child Left Behind, we had a comprehensive high stakes accountability system. It was based on student growth from one year to the next – same cohort of students.

Measure those kids at the end of one year. Look at those same kids at the end of the next year, and see what growth occurred or didn’t occur. And that addresses one of the things that teachers and other educators for a long time have complained about. Don’t compare my effectiveness with students to some other teacher, who may have students who come from totally different backgrounds. Measure the growth in performance. That’s what the Mississippi accountability model does. That’s what we put together in North Carolina. That’s what many states are doing, and that’s what No Child Left Behind requires. Now, the difference is under No Child, it’s an improvement in percent proficient. In both the North Carolina and Mississippi model, it is growth based on a scale score; but if the scale score continues to improve sufficiently, the number in percent of students proficient will improve so I am very enthusiastic about No Child Left Behind. I’m very enthusiastic about the accountability models of states that preceded No Child. The underlying principle is, adults should not make excuses based on all those factors that I mentioned for lack of student success. We need to roll up our sleeves and make sure that kids learn; and if we teach them, they will learn. Thank you.

MR. WHITMIRE: Thank you. We’re not being rude to Mr. Simon; we’re just going to assume that Secretary Spellings has already laid out the administration’s perspective. Mr. Johnson is the practitioner in the panel here. I have a long list of questions for you, most of which I won’t be able to get to you on; but if we could start with just a general one, if you could survey Mississippi for us and tell us what’s working there with No Child Left Behind and what is not working.

MR. JOHNSON: I guess one of the best ways to illustrate what’s working: as my staff and I were going through the requirements of No Child, as we were trying to put together our plan, there was a lot of intense conversation, even debate, about what we should do, what we could do, what was the right thing to do, and all those things related to it. And I stopped the conversation and said, “You know, folks, this is exactly the kind of conversation that No Child Left Behind envisioned would occur at state and local levels, now, a very serious discussion about what actions can we take that will positively impact on student learning outcomes.” And I think that’s pretty powerful. The more we spend time thinking about how to improve teaching and learning, the better learning will occur; and that’s what I think works. In terms of the specific parts of measuring student growth, the State of Mississippi had an accountability already in place so what No Child Left Behind required is just layering the federal requirements onto the state requirements so that there would be one comprehensive system; and it is working well. Mississippi has a long way to go vis-à-vis other states in terms of absolute performance. I’d be less than frank if I said the factors like economics do matter. If I said that they didn’t matter, that would be incorrect. They do matter; but when you look at improvement, we have come a terrifically long way, and the trend line’s in the right direction. And across the state, as I go around visiting with local officials, superintendents, principals, and teachers, I don’t hear excuses, I hear “Let’s figure out ways to be successful with our kids,” so I’m very encouraged.

MR. WHITMIRE: And what’s working least well?

MR. JOHNSON: Well, I think the special ed issue needs to be resolved. You’ve got a requirement under IDEA that says a student must be educated in the most appropriate, least restrictive educational environment. You’ve got a requirement under No Child that says if – now, these are not exact words but the essence of it is if that most appropriate, least restrictive alternative is off grade level and you assess at that off grade level, by definition, that child contributes to not meeting adequate yearly progress, and local school officials find that troublesome. It sort of doesn’t pass the face validity test.

MR. WHITMIRE: Mr. Simon, right from the beginning of No Child Left Behind, I think, education observers from all sides of the political spectrum thought that one flaw in the law was that it over identified schools in trouble and it was impossible to distinguish between a truly failing school and a school that’s just struggling or a school that has, perhaps, mediocre results. Is this a fatal flaw, and if so, can it be fixed?

MR. RAY SIMON: I don’t think it’s a fatal flaw. First of all, identifying a school for improvement we don’t consider to be a badge of dishonor. It’s an opportunity for schools to understand that there are challenges there that they’re not meeting with individual students. As a result of being identified in improvement, there will be more resources given to that school to help its students. So I think maybe we’ve lost the public relations battle early on that this was something wrong, that there was an evil thing to be in improvement; and it’s really not. So part of our job is to re-identify those schools and to say to states and schools, “It’s not bad to be in improvement. It’s bad to need improvement and not know it.” Now, that having been said, we want to make sure that the law is tweaked, that flexibilities are given so that schools that are in improvement are truly the ones that are identified. If you misidentify a school, then resources are going to the wrong place so we want to work with schools and states to make sure that the identification within their accountability plan is the most fair, is the most reliable so that when a school finally receives that particular designation, it in fact does need it, resources go to help it.

MR. WHITMIRE: Congressman Castle, I’d like to turn to the 1.5 billion (dollars) that’s being proposed for the high school testing, which, I believe, you support. But, of course, to reach that 1.5 billion (dollars) there’s a lot of money that’s proposed being shifted away from vocational programs, which you have been a big supporter of, so I’d like to talk to you about that funding process. A, should this be funded and will it be funded, will it succeed?

MR. : (Laughter.) That’s an easy one. You should be able to predict this.

REP. CASTLE: Thank you very much. I think I have some votes I have to go cast at this point in time. (Laughter.)

I don’t know the answer, Richard. Obviously none of us do at this point. And I think all of you here probably have some at least vague if not a precise knowledge of this process. The president has proposed a budget on Monday which captured this particular issue. He had talked about extending No Child Left Behind to high schools. That’s only sort of tangentially involved with the high schools now. The testing is really in grades 3 through 8 and I think it’s one year in high schools at this point – but testing it through all those years and greater accountability, et cetera. And I think that’s – I do think that’s a good idea. You are right about that. I do think if you’re going to do No Child Left Behind, you ought to do it through all of education. In fact, I think ultimately we ought to look at something in very early education, perhaps different No Child Left Behind, but some way of assessing there.

But how are we going to get there? Vocational education really is important, and I go to our schools on a regular basis. I see the wonderful work that they are doing, particularly taking student who may have tremendous aptitudes in certain areas but perhaps are not quite as academically inclined, and giving them sufficient academics, but giving them also the outlet to do other things. It turns out many of them are economically very successful. They’ve done some wonderful things with it, and I’d hate to see that discouraged, and I would hate to see the high school program sort of built on the funding back of the vocational education. And I don’t think I’m alone as far as that’s concerned. So we’re going to have to obviously look at this carefully.

We now go through – now that the president has made those proposals this week, we now go through a budget write up by our budget committees in the House and Senate, and then we go through the appropriations process, which probably won’t wind up until August – well, we’re off in August, but September, even October, and sometimes it ends up in some sort of continuing resolution.

I can’t imagine candidly that that’s not going to be changed fairly substantially; hopefully to accommodate what the president wants to do with respect to high schools, but also with some protection to the vocational education programs as they exist today, Richard. I can’t begin to tell you how, but the sentiment that I’ve heard through our committee is pretty strong, that a lot of people want to make sure that the vocational education is not left too far behind. So I would suggest you are going to see some changes.

MR. WHITMIRE: Okay, just to follow, I’d like to bounce it back to Mr. Johnson for just a second. There’ve been two reports out recently on high school education, neither of them very flattering as far as outcomes, but they also took issue with the tests and the quality of those tests. Looking at Mississippi, is now the time to add tests to grades or improve the tests that you have, or is it possible to do both?

MR. JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it is time to add. One of the purposes of assessment is to gauge where you are and to make adjustments. Now the annual testing that’s required under No Child and under most state accountability systems don’t give information that informs the instructional process. These are summative measures that help you to make programmatic decisions, maybe, but they don’t really help in making instructional decisions. After all, basically the kids are gone when you get the information back.

What one has to do, I think, is to put in a system of diagnostic assessments; assessments that give the teacher information to modify the instructional process. So if we can change how we think about assessments and not see it as something extra but as something part of the comprehensive instructional process – the teaching and learning process, then it’s not a big problem. And part of it is formative assessment, part of it is summative, but it’s all part of how do you make instruction better -- how do you make the system better, how do you make the instruction better. So I don’t have a problem with adding tests.

What I will add, though, I can speak only for Mississippi, although we did go through it in North Carolina, it’s wise to assess the assessments periodically. In Mississippi, for example, we’ve got a pretty high percent of kids – percentage of kids reaching proficiency, and a lot of our schools are making adequate yearly progress, but when we look at the rigor of the items in our assessment, we’ve concluded that we don’t have enough of the more rigorous kinds of questions. So we’re in the process of revisiting the standards for the assessments.

The content standards seem to be okay, but it’s the application. We don’t have enough of those more rigorous assessments. And we wouldn’t know that without the impetus of the state and the federal accountability efforts.

MR. WHITMIRE: Yes, please, Congressman.

REP. CASTLE: Just a quick comment on that, and maybe speaking for the other unmotivated students out there, which I was one. The one for tests – I don’t know what I would have ever done. I mean, I remember the bar exam scared the heck out of me, and I really worked hard for that. But basically, unless there was a test coming up, I wasn’t going to do a heck of a lot.

And we – and everyone talks about adding tests. I’ve taken a look informally at some of the testing that goes on in schools – particularly in high schools – and there’s also the possibility of deleting some tests, too. It’s not necessarily an add-on. It’s perhaps a different assessment that is going to be put into place as part of No Child Left Behind to give us a better idea of how schools are doing in a state or region in the country, but perhaps something else could be deleted.

So I’ve never been one to exactly shirk from tests; I never like them much, but you had to do them. And my judgment is that this can be worked into a curriculum. It’s just not – it’s just not quite the crucible issue that some seem to make it to be.

MR. WHITMIRE: I did have a question for Senator Kennedy, which I gather will be handled by Carmela Martin. (Chuckles.)

There are changes to No Child Left Behind that everyone seems to agree need to be made. The most common one, just to give an example, would be perhaps switching the order of transfers and supplemental services. Perhaps it makes more sense to give supplemental services to, you know, students in struggling schools before you allow them to transfer. This has to be done by Congress, I believe.

Can you talk about this change process? When are we likely to see changes in No Child Left Behind and what might be in that change package.

CARMELA MARTIN: First I would say that Senator Kennedy is very much looking forward to working with the new secretary. She has said that she is open to trying to address concerns through the regulatory process, so we’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to address some of the concerns that way, and are eager to work with her on that front.

No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization in ’07 – you know, terminates in ’06, so that’s really not that far away the way Congress usually works, so we would start to talk next year about ideas with respect to reauthorization. I think it’s unlikely that we will reopen the law legislatively before that time, but again, we’re hoping that we’ll be able to address some of the concerns that exist right now through the regulatory process and working with Secretary Spellings and Assistant Secretary Simon.

REP. CASTLE: And Richard, that’s exactly the same for the House – that’s exactly where I think everybody is in the House – that it will not be opened now.

MR. WHITMIRE: -- will not be opened now.

REP. CASTLE: Look at it for ’07 and work with the secretary, just as Senator Kennedy would.

MR. WHITMIRE: Mr. Simon, Education Week recently put together a list of all the states asking for waivers from No Child Left Behind, and they’re very much, as you know, Republican states as well as Democratic states. And Secretary Spellings has indicated a willingness to be very open to this.

Can you talk about this whole process of bending, how much you will bend, and at what point it gets to diluted that it’s the old ESEA rather than No Child Left Behind, and perhaps give a specific; for example, will Chicago get to do its own tutoring?

MR. SIMON: Thank you. Since you mentioned Education Week, I brought a copy of a recent issue that I think sums up No Child Left Behind from Ed Week, and it says, taking root. The law has taken root. It’s doing for kids – it’s beginning to do for kids what we have always wanted for them all along.

So the issue of waivers – first of all, there have been no waivers from No Child Left Behind to this date, and the secretary has indicated her desire not to just hand out waivers because if we do, as you said, we will be back in the same situation we were with the last reauthorization, the “we didn’t mean it” law. And seven years after the passage of the ’94 law we had only 11 states that were fulfilling the requirements. I think Congress has spoken when it says we don’t want another generation of children waived away from academic excellence.

So that having been said, the real challenge – and I appreciate the comments that have come here – is that we need to try to squeeze ounce of flexibility out of the law. We have to take a – we have to reexamine our policies and procedures at the department. We have to work with Congress to find where the tweaking needs to occur. I totally agree: we don’t need to open this law back up because when you do, you risk ruining the impetus and the progress so far.

In terms of Chicago specifically, we’ve worked a situation with them. Our regulations are pretty firm that if a district is in improvement, it can’t offer supplemental services. We have a situation in Chicago – it’s very unique there – where they have spent appropriate amounts of funds so far this year. We’re allowing them to count some expenses they’ve had the first semester. They’re going to continue to offer after-school programs for these children, although they’re not officially supplemental services. So the children in Chicago are going to continue to receive services from the district, but we were able to do that in a way that didn’t violate and, at the same time, assist Chicago in some unique circumstances they have in the short term. That’s another example of how we’re willing to work with an individual district or a state to try to make things work for kids because that’s what’s really important.

MR. WHITMIRE: Mr. Johnson, I think it’s fair to say that No Child Left Behind gives states the money to assess their schools and decide which schools – identify which schools are in trouble, but for schools in serious trouble, it doesn’t necessarily give the states money to completely revamp the school. That’s false – more on your watch; the state watch, if you will.

Is that happening in Mississippi, and are you – do you see a situation where you are going to – the law is going to sort of prod you toward spending money on things that maybe you’d rather be spending on something else?

MR. JOHNSON: No. You actually had two different points in that question. The law does allow a state to focus its resources from federal sources on the schools that are in most need of help. We identified last year ten schools which were our priority schools. These were schools rated the poorest performing in terms of student learning outcomes.

Using federal dollars, we decided that a Mississippi-specific version of America’s Choice would be the school-reform model that we used, and at the end of last – well, after the year had passed, eight of those ten schools were no longer on the list. We were shooting for ten out of ten, but two are repeats this year. My goal is to – every time we identify the top – those priority schools, that none show up on that list the next year. That was the experience in North Carolina the first few years.

Of the 15 schools that were the worst of the worst, none showed up the first year, and only a couple showed up the second year. So it allows states to concentrate federal dollars for sure on the most needy schools, and I don’t see that being improper at all. It does also allow us to make decisions about where we concentrate state dollars.

MR. WHITMIRE: One thing I’m curious about from Senator Kennedy’s staff, the – some states have moved very aggressively on teacher quality issues and some have not. And some have found ways to – especially when defining whether veteran teachers are highly qualified – ways that fall short of do they have a major or minor, or have they passed a content test, and I believe this just played out in Pennsylvania recently.

I’m curious how the senator feels about this; how comfortable he is with what’s happening out there on teacher quality.

MS. MARTIN: Well, actually, we’ve asked GAO to look at that issue closely because it is one that Senator Kennedy is very concerned about. And I think one of his concerns is that the – it is an area that he would like to work with Secretary Spellings on in terms of having greater leadership from the Department of Education on that issue, and one of the things we’ve asked the department to look at with us is something called the house standard. In the NCLB there were multiple options for veteran teachers. One of them was to develop a statewide standard that might be slightly different from what was scripted in the federal law but would follow the same principles to – and those principles being to ensure that teacher – (audio break, tape change) – also had subject matter expertise, and we feel like this is an area that hasn’t been getting enough attention, both – often at the state level, but also with respect to leadership on the federal level, so that’s something we would like to see greater attention given to.

In addition, it’s an area that we think we really need to work on increasing resources. If we are going to meet the goals of No Child Left Behind with respect to teacher quality, it seems that there is no doubt that we need, at the federal and the state level, to invest greater resources in developing that teacher core.

MR. WHITMIRE: One last question before we move to Q&A from the audience – actually there will be two because I’m going to be asking people to predict NAEP scores. But for Mr. Simon, you hear a lot of discussion about moving to more sophisticated testing: value-added testing, testing that follows each child. Can you give some thought on how that might happen?

MR. SIMON: Sure. That’s one of the issues that we hear the most about, is the ability to incorporate to a greater extent what some call growth models, value-added models to No Child Left Behind accountability.

There is some opportunity now within No Child Left Behind under what’s called Safe Harbor for states to use growth models if the students fail to meet the absolute performance level. But that’s not going far enough in the minds of some of our folks, so we’re having dialogue with a number of individuals that are interested in growth models in seeing if there’s a way we can better incorporate that concept into the adequate yearly progress.

One thing we must be certain is however we’re able to inc

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