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Spellings addresses PTA Convention.

In a speech given early this summer at the annual National PTA Convention in Columbus, Ohio, Secretary Spellings spoke about bridging the divide between parents and their children's schools. Below is an excerpt of her remarks.

... I know how hard it is to compete for attention in the high-speed, interconnected, I-Pod-loving, 24-7 media-rich world in which we are raising our children.... It's not easy to stay involved in your child's school, especially if you're a single parent like I was, or a parent who doesn't speak English, or a working mom. The PTA is the bridge between the crazy, overscheduled life we all now lead and the highly confusing, often intimidating school system.

... Once you enter the schoolhouse doors, it can be like walking into a wall of "edu-speak." I can understand why parents get frustrated. It sometimes feels like we're all speaking a different language....

... And it's our job to make sure parents understand what [the jargon] means....

No Child Left Behind gives parents information about their school's performance; gives parents options if their local school isn't serving their needs; and provides parents free tutoring for their children who are struggling. In fact, the word "parents" is mentioned 651 times in No Child Left Behind. The law puts parents front and center! ...

I recently encountered a mother who told me that her school "had some of those Nickleby kids." ... It was a reference to No Child Left Behind kids. NCLB. It was said in a derogatory way, like the school was being dragged down because of these children.

So who are these "Nickleby" kids? The voiceless ones who slipped through the system because they were someone else's problem.

They were in someone else's school. But you know what? They weren't. And aren't. They are in almost every school. Your child's school. My daughters' schools. And they are gifted young people with much to offer our communities, our country and our world....

So we have a double duty: to advocate for all children, not just our own; and to make our communities care about all children as well.... How do we make people care about something they don't consider to be their problem? ... At some point in the future, if 40 percent of Americans don't have the skills to hold a job, we'll see crime, hopelessness and despair on the rise....

The good news is that three years into this law, we are making real progress, not only in attitudes but also in results....

... In New York, the achievement gap in fourth-grade English continues to close. African-American and Hispanic students especially continue to make significant gains. For the first time, a majority achieved all the standards, including over 57 percent of Hispanic students, up from 26 percent in 1999. We've seen similar gains in Maryland and Georgia as well....

Nationally, students are taking advantage of what the law has to offer. For instance, in 2003-04, 220,000 students across the nation got free tutoring because of No Child Left Behind. And at least 30,000 students have enrolled in new schools. That number continues to rise. As soon as more parents take advantage of No Child Left Behind, achievement is going to go up even more....

For the full speech, visit www.ed.gov and click on "Speeches" for the June 24, 2005, remarks.

Did You Know?

Approximately 250,000 students last year took advantage of free tutoring or school choice options under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.
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Title Annotation:Margaret Spellings, Parent-Teacher Association
Publication:The Achiever
Geographic Code:1U3OH
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:591
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