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Secretary Spellings Delivered Remarks at Education Trust Dispelling the Myth Award Ceremony

Subhead: Greatest Myth of All Is That Our 2014 Goal Is Impossible.

Spellings makes this claim: We've already come a long way. Our 9-year-olds have made more progress in reading in five years than in the previous 28 years combined. Wouldn't you like to see the proof for this?

November 6, 2006 Contact: Elaine Quesinberry
(202) 401-1576

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the Education Trust's Dispelling the Myth Award Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 3 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. and declared the "greatest myth of all" is that the No Child Left Behind Act's goal of bringing every child to grade-level by 2014 is "impossible."

On the contrary, Secretary Spellings said attaining that goal is achievable—in fact, it's a "moral imperative and responsibility" that the target be reached to keep America competitive in the 21st century and provide for the well-being of all students.

Following are Secretary Spellings' prepared remarks:

Thank you, Kati [Haycock], for that kind introduction and for your leadership here at Ed Trust. Kati is one of the most important policy reformers in the country. I hold her counsel in the highest regard, and I'm grateful for her friendship. Her support was critical for passing No Child Left Behind, and she's been an important ally in helping us implement this law. Kati always stays true to her ideals, and I can always count on her and Ed Trust to put kids first in the debate. Sometimes that's a lonely position to fill, but it's always courageous. And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of you here today who are on the frontlines working to ensure every child in this country can read and do math at grade level by 2014.

I get asked all the time to point to schools that prove it's possible to leave no child behind. The fact is they're all over the country in all different types of neighborhoods with all different kinds of kids. And it's an honor to be here to celebrate five schools that are leading the way. I want to congratulate Capitol View Elementary in Atlanta, East Millsboro Elementary in Millsboro, Delaware, M. Hall Stanton Elementary in Philadelphia, Port Chester Middle School in Port Chester, New York, and Imperial High School in Imperial, California. These schools are dispelling the myth that some children can't or won't achieve, and they're shining the light on strategies that work for all students.

In 1993, Stanton Elementary School was the subject of an Academy Award winning documentary about the problems in our urban schools. Many people wrote the school off as hopeless. The students passed from grade to grade, and no one knew what would become of them.

Today, it's a different story. Principal Barbara Adderley and her staff won't allow students to slip through the cracks. They keep assessment logs to measure student progress during the year, and they hold special classes on Saturdays to help students. As a result, students leave Stanton ready for the challenges ahead. The number of 5th graders graduating on grade level in reading has increased almost six fold since 2002. And Stanton Elementary has gone from being a symbol of urban dysfunction to a beacon of hope for urban schools.

I believe every school in America can achieve these same type of results. And that's why we passed No Child Left Behind. At its heart, this law is all about dispelling myths. Myths like high standards aren't appropriate for certain children. Or that averaging achievement scores is good enough—and it doesn't matter if a few children fall behind.

Of course, it matters. It matters to all of us. It's our moral imperative and responsibility as a nation. Keeping America competitive in the 21st century depends on leaving no child behind. We can't prepare students for the global economy if we don't get them to grade level first. We're talking about grade level. That's the bare minimum our kids need to know to get by in today's world. Ninety percent of the fastest-growing jobs require postsecondary education. And we can't help more students realize the dream of college if we don't teach them how to read and do math first.

When I hear people say things like some children just can't learn, I say, "Whose child are they talking about?" Not mine, I hope, because as a mom, I don't think it's too much to ask that my child leave the third grade reading and doing math at the third grade level. And I'm pretty sure almost all parents feel that same way—regardless of where they live or how much money they make. I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't want their child on grade level now, much less by 2014.

That's why I'm proud for the first time ever we as a nation are holding ourselves accountable for making sure all students learn. Last year, all 50 states assessed every student in grades 3-8 in both reading and math and broke down the results to make sure minority and low-income students aren't falling behind.

We've set a historic goal to ensure every child—regardless of race, income, or zip code—can read and do math at grade level. And we've given ourselves a deadline to do it by 2014 because parents have waited long enough.

As you know, No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization next year. President Bush recently said reauthorizing this law is one of his top priorities, and there's a lot at stake. Over the next year, you'll hear people say we need to lower standards and water down accountability. I strongly disagree. We cannot—and we must not—turn back the clock. And I'm looking forward to working with Congress and organizations like Ed Trust to make sure we keep our commitment to leave no child behind. All of you here today know we can—and we must—do this.

We've already come a long way. Our 9-year-olds have made more progress in reading in five years than in the previous 28 years combined. But we still have a lot more work to do and more myths to dispel.

And the greatest myth of all is that our 2014 goal is impossible ... that no matter what we do, some children will never read and do math at grade level. Tell that to the teachers and students at Capitol View Elementary in Atlanta. The school has one of the highest poverty rates in the state of Georgia, and last year, 100 percent of 5th graders were reading and doing math at grade level. I visited there last year and saw for myself. And if Capitol View Elementary can do it, then every school in America can too.

Everywhere I go, I'm inspired by hard-working teachers who are committed to doing whatever it takes to leave no child behind. And as we move forward, we must do a better job making sure we have our best teachers in our neediest classrooms. Today, you're most likely to find the most experienced and qualified teachers in our wealthiest communities. But in high-poverty middle and high schools, only half of math teachers majored or minored in the field they're teaching.

The problem is we have a system that doesn't give teachers who want to work in our neediest schools the support they need and deserve. That's why President Bush and Congress worked together to create a new Teacher Incentive Fund to reward teachers who take the toughest jobs and achieve real results. My department recently announced grant awards for 16 districts across the country, and over the next five years, we hope to award a total of more than $240 million to encourage high-quality teachers to work in low-income schools.

We know nothing helps a child learn as much as a great teacher. And to keep America competitive in the 21st century, we must ensure every child has a highly qualified and effective teacher.

As you all know, our children aren't growing up in the same world we grew up in. In today's global economy, what you know means far more than where you live. As I said before, 90 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require postsecondary education. But fewer than half of high school students graduate ready for college-level math and science.

We must raise the bar. Just five out of ten African American and Hispanic students graduate high school on time. And only about one in ten Hispanic Americans has a college degree, but high schools like Imperial High in California are helping to change those numbers.

Most of the students at Imperial are Hispanic, and many are new to the English language. And when Lisa Tabarez became principal in 2001, she says only about 30 percent of students went on to college. She and her teachers believed their students could do better. They analyzed assessment data to see where students were struggling, and they focused on helping every student develop the higher-order thinking skills needed for college. As a result, today, Principal Tabarez says about 90 percent of students from Imperial go on to pursue higher education.

That story is not a myth. It's the American dream. And all of you here today have dedicated your lives and your careers to making that dream come true for every child across this country. It's within our reach as a nation, and the schools here today prove it's possible.

Congratulations again. And keep shattering those myths and fulfilling those dreams. Thank you.

— Press Release
U. S. Department of Education


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