Back-to-School Checklist for Parents
As you embark upon your annual back-to-school stories, I wanted
to share some thoughts with you and some helpful tips that
might be of interest to your readers-especially parents.
As a nation, we are blessed with a rich tradition of public
education. The United States has many fine public schools.
Still, many children are not being served as well as they should
be. They are too often left to wander in the shadows, condemned
to a life with little hope or opportunity because they did
not get the quality education they deserved.
Thanks to President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, a bright
light is now being shone on our schools. We are measuring all
students' academic performance and holding all schools accountable
for the results.
The law is a significant change
from business as usual. Educational excellence is now measured
by how many students are achieving, not simply by how many
dollars we are spending. Schools must meet what is called "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP)
in reading/language arts and mathematics. These goals are set
by the state, and school districts and schools set the tone
and course of action for helping students to achieve them.
The main goal of No Child Left Behind is simple: to ensure
that all students perform at grade level in reading and math.
For students trapped in a school that repeatedly does not measure
up, No Child Left Behind provides new options such as tutoring
or transfer to another public or public charter school. The
under-performing school, meanwhile, gets extra resources to
help it improve.
States across the nation will soon be releasing their education
report cards and revealing which schools did and did not meet
their progress goals. Parents and other citizens will no doubt
have a few questions about these changes under the No Child
Left Behind Act and what they mean to their child, their school
and their community.
We've provided a checklist so that busy moms and dads can
be sure to ask the right questions. Many factors go into a
quality education. These are some that should be closely monitored.
We believe that public educators
are up to this new challenge. We know what America can do
when it focuses on results. In 1957, the launch of Sputnik
spurred us to reassess the quality of public education. In
1983, the seminal report A Nation at Risk warned of a "rising tide of mediocrity" in
our schools. And today, our twin achievement gaps-one between
students of different income levels and races, the other
between America and other nations-have focused attention
on the critical need to do everything in our power to educate
For America to compete in the 21st century, we must implement
the reforms contained in the No Child Left Behind Act. But
our challenge must be joined. The federal government, states,
local education agencies, community organizations, parents
and businesses must all work in partnership. And the media
will play an important role as well.
In the end, accountability is in everyone's hands. All children
deserve a quality education. No child deserves to be left behind.#
Dr. Rod Paige is the US Sec. of Education