In a January 12 speech at J.E. B. Stuart High School in Falls Church,
VA, President George Bush outlined a proposal to extend educational
testing and accountability requirements to public high schools across
the nation. The 2001 "No Child Left Behind" Act required that
states test all third- through eighth-grade students in math and reading
(and, starting in 2007, students must be tested in science three times
between third and twelfth grade). Bush's new plan calls for math and
reading assessments to continue through eleventh grade. Bush plans to
request $1.5 billion for this proposal in his FY 2006 budget request,
but much of that money would be taken from existing programs.
As part of this proposal, the President would recycle his plan from
last year - which Congress did not support - to devote $120 million
of the Education Department's Mathematics and Science Partnership Program
(MSP) funding strictly to improving secondary math instruction. Bush
plans to request $269 million in FY 2006 for the MSPs, equal to FY 2005
funding. But instead of the entire $269 million being available for
partnerships between university departments, school districts, state
education agencies and other partners to improve math and science instruction
and teacher professional development, $120 million would be targeted
"to support projects to accelerate the mathematics achievement
of all secondary students, and especially low-achieving students,"
according to a White House press release. Congress did not fence off
any funds for this purpose in FY 2005.
Components of Bush's plan include a $500 million incentive fund to
reward successful teachers; $52 million to ensure that teachers in low-income
schools are prepared to teach Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate
courses; $45 million for State Scholars programs which require students
to take rigorous high school science, math and other courses; $200 million
for a Striving Readers program; and support for Adjunct Teacher programs
that encourage "professionals to teach middle and high school courses...particularly
in mathematics and science."
Selected quotations from President Bush's speech follow:
STUDENT MATH AND SCIENCE PERFORMANCE: "I'm here at Stuart
High School because I want other schools who have got a student population
as diverse as a Stuart High School does to know that success and excellence
is possible.... And, yet, many of our nation's high schools face serious
challenges. Out of a hundred 9th graders in our public schools, only
68 will complete high school on time.... And a 68 percent graduation
rate for 9th graders is not good enough to be able to compete in this
competitive world. In math and science, the problem is especially urgent.
A recent study showed that American 15-year-olds ranked 27th out of
39 countries in math literacy. I don't know about you, but I want to
be ranked first in the world, not 27th.
I view the results in our high school as a warning, and a call to
action. And I believe the federal government has a role to play. As
you can tell, I believe the federal government had a role to play in
primary education, and I believe the federal government has a role to
play in secondary education. Up to now, the reforms, as I've explained
to you, focus on the primary schools. Today, I propose a $1.5 billion
initiative to help every high school student graduate with the skills
necessary to succeed."
ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: "The role of the federal
government is to -- is to serve as a funding source for specific projects,
and an instigator for accountability systems. The accountability system
is, of course, devised by local people.... I don't believe in a federal
test. I believe a federal test leads to federal control, and I believe
federal control of the public school systems leads to failure. And so
I believe the federal government has an obligation to help in a way
that helps local districts and local schools achieve our objectives.
Some of that money...will go to early intervention programs."
TESTING: "To ensure that the intervention programs are
working and graduates are prepared, we need to be certain that high
school students are learning every year. So the second component of
my high school initiative is to measure progress with tests in reading
and math in the 9th, 10th and 11th grade. Listen, I've heard every excuse
in the book not to test. My answer is, how do you know if a child is
learning if you don't test. We've got money in the budget to help the
states implement the tests.... I've heard people say you're teaching
the test; if you teach a child to read, they'll pass the test. Testing
is important. Testing at high school levels will help us to become more
competitive as the years go by. Testing in high schools will make sure
that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century. Testing
will allow teachers to improve their classes. Testing will enable schools
to track. Testing will make sure that diploma is not merely a sign of
endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed."
HIGH SCHOOL MATH INITIATIVE: "To make sure that people
can find work in the 21st century, high school graduates also need a
firm grasp on math. I'm proposing a $120 million initiative to improve
high school math. With these funds, school districts will set up programs
to train math teachers in methods proven to succeed. Every student should
be prepared in math so that every graduate has the skills necessary
to succeed.... [T]he best jobs are those that require math, some sense
of understanding of math. And too many of our students don't understand
that -- understand math. And we've got to get it right."
ACCOUNTABILITY: "We're making great progress of the
No Child Left Behind Act. I will vigorously defend the No Child Left
Behind Act. We will not accept rolling back the -- the accountability
systems in the No Child Left Behind Act, because I believe the accountability
systems are beginning to make a huge difference in the lives of children
from all walks of life across this country."