WASHINGTON (Talon News) — President Bush continued to push his second-term agenda Wednesday, focusing on improving secondary education. The president is proposing that his landmark education legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act, be expanded in order to make high school graduates more competitive in the global marketplace.

In an appearance at a Virginia high school, President Bush introduced new initiatives that would improve the standing of American students relative to other nations. According to the latest results from the Program for International Student Assessment, 15-year-olds in the United States performed below the international average in mathematics literacy and problem solving, placing 27th out of 39 countries.

Key elements of the plan would be to increase funding for his Striving Readers program and provide additional support for the Mathematics and Science Partnership program. Teachers who demonstrate success in preparing their students through increases in student achievement and teach in low-income schools, would be rewarded from an incentive fund for states and school districts.

The president is also proposing the State Scholars Initiative for states to develop and promote strong courses of study to increase student achievement. The president’s support for Advanced Placement programs would not only encourage the growth of AP and International Baccalaureate courses, but also serve as a mechanism for upgrading the entire high school curriculum for all students.

Opponents of NCLB, largely Democrats and teachers’ unions, claim that the law passed in 2001 with wide bipartisan support has been underfunded. But a significant portion of tax dollars made available to the states has gone unspent.

The president’s Fiscal Year 2006 budget will provide $1.5 billion in funding for a new High School Initiative to help states hold high schools accountable for teaching all students and to provide effective and timely intervention for those students who are not learning at grade level. This initiative includes requirements for state assessments in high school to ensure that diplomas are truly meaningful.

Bush is also supporting partnerships between school districts and public-private institutions to create an Adjunct Teacher Corps, with opportunities for professionals to teach middle and high school courses in the core academic subjects, particularly in mathematics and science. Many school districts are in need of personnel to strengthen instruction in middle and high schools in the core academic subjects, especially mathematics and science.

The president said that America’s future prosperity is tied to a stronger education system. He reiterated the basis for which he pushed the NCLB act through Congress in the first months of his term.

Bush also spoke of the underlying principle of the legislation, saying, “The theory of this law is straightforward, it’s pretty easy to understand: that in return for federal dollars, we are asking for results. That makes sense if you’re a taxpayer.”

He added, “We’re leaving behind the old attitude that it’s okay for some students just to be shuffled through the system. That’s not okay. And three years ago we began to change the system that too often had given up on a child, primarily those children whose mothers or dads didn’t speak English as a first language or those children who may be growing up in inner-city America, whose mom or dad didn’t have big income levels. This administration believes, and most people in America believe that every child can learn.”

The president declared that his plan raises the standards for every public school in America. And to ensure progress, accountability is crucial to ensuring that every child is learning. Schools are judged on their effectiveness and rewarded accordingly, through the free-market principle of competition. Parents with children in failing schools can opt for free after-school tutoring or send them to a different public school.

Bush touted improved national test scores since the legislation was enacted. Fourth grade math test scores have gone up nine points between the years 2000 and 2003. Eighth graders improved by five points in the same period. He also said that the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic and Native American children is beginning to close as a result.

Democrats in Congress are hoping to strip out many of the provisions of NCLB. But the president warned that he would “vigorously defend” the legislation in place and push forward with additional programs.

“We will not accept rolling back 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,” Bush said.

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