Education Secretary Says No Child Left Behind Act Will Help Reverse Two-Tiered SystemU.S. Education Secretary Dr. Roderick Paige gave a progress report on the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act in Washington recently, calling it a “revolution” that would do much to reverse a subpar U.S. educational system that he compared to apartheid.
“We are facing an unrecognized educational crisis in this country. Our wide and sometimes growing achievement gap confirms that there is a two-tiered educational system,” Paige said. “The vast majority of students left behind are disadvantaged or low-income. Effectively, the education circumstances for these students are not unlike that of a de facto system of apartheid.”
Paige pointed out that recent SAT scores showed that African American scores remained flat, and Hispanic scores went down over the last several years. By 12th grade, he said, just one in six African Americans and one in five Hispanics can read proficiently. Just 3 percent of African Americans and 4 percent of Hispanics are testing at the proficient level in math.
He tied the academic performance of K-12 students to the country’s future security. Paige referenced a report finding American students read, write and do math at worse rates than students in Asia and Europe.
“Our students are falling behind, and there is every indication that, if we allow the guardians of the educational status quo to have their way, … our nation will be left behind,” he said. “If current educational attainments are allowed to continue, underachievement will be a disaster, not only for our students, but our nation as well. Educational disparities threaten the country itself, our very way of life.”
Paige touched on some new initiatives as part of the No Child Left Behind effort. Parents in economically disadvantaged school districts can get more information about how their schools are performing and the qualifications of their children’s teachers, he said.
He also attacked critics that have said the administration has funded the program at lower levels than it requested in its budget, saying that spending levels aren’t the most important measure of commitment.
“Don’t be duped — it’s not that we don’t spend enough,” he said. “We spend more than many other nations and still get poor results.”
The education secretary likened No Child Left Behind to the Civil Rights Act in that it extends educational equality to all Americans.
“Educational reform must overcome many hurdles, just as the civil rights struggle encountered barriers and obstacles,” Paige said. “But we can, and we will, extend the educational franchise to provide quality education to every child.”
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