Education Chat

Chat Transcript: U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige discusses the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and its effects on schools, as well as President Bush's philosophy on improving education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige

About the Guest:
Rod Paige is the 7th U.S. Secretary of Education and the first African-American to serve in this role. Earning his bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University in Mississippi and his masters and doctoral degrees from Indiana University, Mr. Paige has been a teacher, a coach, a school board member, a dean of education, and superintendent of the nation’s 7th largest school district in Houston, Texas. As U.S. Secretary of Education, Mr. Paige is the policymaker at the helm of efforts to implement the No Child Left Behind Act.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige joined Education Week on the Web on Sept. 24, 2003, for a live online chat to discuss implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and its effect on schools, as well as the Bush administration’s philosophy for improving education.

(Ed. Note: This chat generated more than 400 questions from readers. At the Secretary’s request, we have forwarded to him all the questions he was unable to get to. Though Secretary Paige is not able to answer individual questions, he will be reading all the questions that were submitted.)

Lynn Olson (Moderator):
Welcome to Education Week’s Talkback Live. We’re fortunate to have U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige joining us today. I’m going to turn it over to Mr. Paige to make an opening comment. Then we’ll jump right into questions.

Secretary Rod Paige:
I’m glad to join you today for the first Talkback Live of the new school year. I want to thank Education Week for hosting such a useful forum and for inviting me to help kick off this year’s series.

This new school year brought new opportunities for America’s schools, teachers, administrators and, most important, our children.

The No Child Left Behind Act -- a historic law that passed with strong bipartisan support in Congress -- sets high goals for all of us, and I’m proud of the tremendous accomplishments we’ve seen thus far.

I believe this law marks the beginning of a revolution in public education -- one that will empower parents, teachers and communities with more information, more choices, more resources and more flexibility to get the job done.

This law is dramatically changing conversations in communities across the country and is raising awareness of the achievement gap -- an education emergency, from my perspective -- and focusing squarely on the performance of ALL children, especially those who historically have been left behind.

For the teachers and others in the education community who are participating in this chat, thank you for the work you do everyday to educate the future of America. For parents, please know that there are millions of caring, committed educators throughout the U.S. who, like you and me, are deeply committed to helping your children learn and grow.

By working together, we can overcome any challenges and achieve our shared goal of making sure every child receives a quality education.

I encourage each of you to learn more about the law at I’m looking forward to a lively and informative chat today.

Thank you for taking the time to join us.

Question from Susan C. Thomas; Manager Org. Devel Trg., Boeing Satellite Systems:
NCLB accountability addresses only math & reading. These are essential, but what can & will be done to assure accountability in science, history, PE and the arts?

Secretary Rod Paige:
NCLB requires states to have science standards in place for the 2005-06 school year and annual testing in science for each grade span (3-5, 6-9,10-12) by the 2007-08 school year.

We know that many states already are measuring academic achievement in science, as well as other subjects such as history and writing.

States have the flexibility to determine the subjects (beyond reading, math and science) for which they will hold schools and districts accountable for academic achievement.

These additional subjects can be built into state accountability systems, which the law supports by allowing these other subjects to be used as “other academic indicators” in determining AYP.

NCLB recognizes that many subjects make up the core curriculum and defines “core academic subjects” as English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography.

This is critical in that NCLB requires teachers to be highly qualified in these core academic subjects, a requirement built upon strong research that shows the quality of the teacher to have the largest impact on student achievement.

Question from Tom Galvin, Connecticut Principals’ center:
Are there plans to take a second look at the AYP to avoid the “doomsday” identification of large numbers of failing schools and provide recognition and encouragement for schools sincerely making efforts to improve and showing progress ?

Secretary Rod Paige:
First, it is important to note that the No Child Left Behind Act does not use the term “failing” schools.

Schools that do not make adequate yearly progress for two or more consecutive years are identified as schools in need of improvement.

So, I don’t agree with the notion that identifying schools that may need to focus more on certain subgroups as somehow being a “doomsday” scenario. It’s also important to note is that schools identified as “in need of improvement” may, in fact, be succeeding in some measures.

What’s important is that we know these schools are capable of getting better results for ALL their students and with the subgroup accountability under NCLB States, districts, and schools will be able to pinpoint exactly where to target their resources to ensure high academic achievement for all students.

By identifying schools as in need of improvement, States and districts are indicating their commitment to help schools work for all students. With a dedicated focus on accountability and achievement, any school that needs improvement can create a new culture of learning and excellence.

Frankly, I’m pleased with the progress we’re seeing so far this year. All summer long I have read news stories about schools that were identified as in need of improvement and are working hard to turn things around. States and schools should be proud of their progress to date. We’’ll continue to be a full partner with the states and school districts to help them achieve the goal of leaving no child behind.

Question from Dr. Steve Mulvenon, Director of Communications, Washoe County School District, Reno, NV:
Why does the administration feel that special education students, each with an IEP, must take the same standardized tests as other students and achieve at the same level as other students?

Secretary Rod Paige:
: I believe that for far too long, some educators have held low expectations for special education students when we know that these students often can achieve at high levels. Students with disabilities must have the same opportunity as other students to learn grade level content standards and be assessed against those standards.

These students have specific needs that may affect how they are assessed. The Individual Education Program (IEP) team has the responsibility for determining how to assess these students, given each student’s unique circumstance, so they can demonstrate how well they have learned the general curriculum.

In this process, the IEP team will specify which accommodations these students should receive during testing. Some students with disabilities will need specific accommodations or even an alternative version of the test (e.g., test in Braille) so their achievement can be appropriately measured.

Generally, these accommodations will be the same ones received during instruction, such as additional time, frequent breaks, reduced distractions, simplified instructions, or being able to mark the answer in a test booklet instead of a separate answer sheet.

Question from Paul Rowland, Dean, School of Education, The University of Montana:
If the intent of having highly qualified teachers is obtain high student acheivement then why does a teacher whose students perform well on various acheivement measures need to take a test to show they are highly qualified (given little evidence that such test performance will contribute to high student acheivement)?

Secretary Rod Paige:
One of the key principles of the No Child Left Behind Act is flexibility. The highly qualified teacher provisions are good examples of the flexibility embedded in the law, particularly for veteran teachers.

Teachers who are not new to the profession have a variety of options for meeting the highly qualified teacher requirement for demonstrating subject matter competency. As you mentioned, one option is taking a subject matter test. However, there are others, such as the state defined “high, objective, uniform State standard of evaluation.” Some states, like Tennessee measure teacher’s effect on student achievement as a proxy for a teacher’s subject matter mastery. We encourage states to explore this and other options for veteran teachers to demonstrate their subject mastery.

Question from Patrick M. Johnson, Sr. Account Manager, ETS:
NCLB has not been totally funded, yet the demands of this are affecting local budgets. What is being done to address the lack of funding?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Everything that NCLB requires is paid for with record taxpayer investments, from my perspective.

Under the President’s leadership, this our schools will benefit from the highest levels of federal funding for education in history. He has met his commitment to a law that provides more money and powerful reform.

For example, for the first time, there’s more money exclusively for testing and accountability systems. There are record increases in Title I. Consider this: Title I spending increased more during the first two years of President George W. Bush’s administration than it did during the previous seven. There are record investements in reading -- the foundation of all learning; more money for professional development and other programs for teachers.

American taxpayers spend around $470 BILLION on their schools -- more than on defense. No Child Left Behind will help ensure that these significant dollars are invested wisely.

Question from Sarah Lynn, parent:
I have read and heard that under the NCLB act by the 2013-14 school year all children with disabilities are expected to pass the assessments. Aren’t you then saying that you want all children with disabilities to be on grade level with their peers and thus effectively saying that they no longer need special education? What about children who have severe and profound disabilities who may not ever learn to read or write? Are they excluded from the NCLB requirements?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Students with disabilities do not drop their disability if they achieve proficiency on state assessments. These students may likely still need special services to continue achieving at high levels.

Students with severe and profound cognitive disabilities may be assessed based on alternate assessments that reflect alternate achievement standards. In other words, these students will be expected to learn the same content as general students but their standard of proficiency will be more tailored to their unique needs. They are not excluded from NCLB assessment or accountability requirements. In fact, states are finding that as they include these students in the assessment and accountability system they are achieving at much higher levels than thought possible.

Question from D DiPoce K -5 Curric Supv Public School NJ:
If research based programs are required of public schools, why are federally funded colleges/universities not compelled to offer training in these programs prior to granting degrees to teaching students?

Secretary Rod Paige:
The federal government doesn’t have the authority to require changes in the curriculum for teacher preparation at colleges and universities across the nation. However, I strongly encourage colleges and universities that prepare students to teach to give those students a grounding in evidence-based practice. This means two things: First, students need to have course work that gives them an understanding of scientifically-based research as it applies to education. Second, colleges should design field placements that give students experience in delivering research-proven programs. I expect we will see a lot of movement in this direction in teacher education over the next few years.

Question from Barb Schade, Teacher, Wilton High School:
Given NCLB’s mandate that teachers must be certified in the subject area they teach, what are your thoughts about how school systems will maximize the special educators who are experts in areas of special education but not certified in a specific academic subject?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Special education teachers play a vital role in educating children with special needs. The highly qualified provisions of the law recognize the hard work they do and encourage teachers with this specialized training to assist mainstream teachers in adapting and modifying instruction in a way that best meets the needs of students in special education.

The law also recognizes that many special education teachers are currently providing direct instruction in core academic subjects. I believe that all students, including special education students, deserve teachers that are competent in the subject they teach. The law requires this and states and districts should work to provide these teachers with the professional development in content they need for success.

Question from Jeff Barker, NAEP Coordinator, GADOE:
Are there any plans or discussions regarding using NAEP as an external confirmatory indicator for state assessments?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Under No Child Left Behind, all States will be participating in the NAEP 4th and 8th grade math and reading assessments every two years, beginning in 2002-03. This additional data from NAEP will significantly increase the information that parents and the public can use to compare the academic achievement of children from state to state. NAEP data will also highlight the rigor of individual States’ standards and assessments. If there is a large discrepancy between students’ proficiency on a state’s tests and their performance on NAEP, that would suggest that a State may want to reexamine the rigor of its standards and assessments.

Question from Juanita Johnson,Early Childhood Consultant & School Board Member,NYC:
Is it legally correct under the NCLB for a charter school receiving public funds to mandate that a child wishing to leave a corective action school to go through a lottery which is their method for enrollment.

Secretary Rod Paige:
We answered this in our guidance on “The Impact of the New Title I Requirements on Charter Schools":

Nothing in the statute requires that students transferring under the Title I public school choice provisions be granted preference in these lotteries. State law determines how and if lotteries operate for oversubscribed charter schools. Also, to be an eligible charter school under the Federal charter school grants program, a charter school must use a lottery to admit students if there are more applicants than openings; however some State laws allow other methods for determining admission to oversubscribed charter schools.

The guidance, as well as regulations, policy letters, and much more is available online at

Question from Martha C. Brown, former public high school teacher, now idependent education writer:
Dr. Paige - NCLB is stressing the need for primary grade teachers to switch from whole language reading instruction to research proven systematic phonics. How will the Education Department deal with educators who try to avoid phonics instruction and insist on continuing the reading wars, which for decades have been responsible for increasing illiteracy and demoralizing children and teenagers?

Secretary Rod Paige:
What we’re doing is simply supporting what works in reading instruction. Research over the last three to four decades has shown that we know what works in teaching our kids how to read. Now, we just have to do it, and do it on a national scale. This does not mean, of course, that there is one way to teach reading; it does mean, however, that effective reading instruction must be comprised of the 5 essential components of reading - phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Research is clear that instruction that systematically and explicitly teaches these components produces proficient readers, and putting this instruction into our nation’s classrooms will help to ensure that all children read at grade level or above by the end of third grade.

We know that all teachers want to help make their students good readers. No caring adult enters the noble profession of teaching with the goal of teaching half her kids to read well, yet the data show that across the country we consistently leave too many children behind when it comes to effective, high-quality reading instruction.

Reading First - with its billion dollars per year of federal reading support - and its adherence to the research-based, state-by-state plans is addressing this problem head-on. Once a child is a fluent, confident reader, the classroom and the whole words opens up for him. That’s what No Child Left Behind is all about.

Question from Gary W. Smith, Teacher, Hampton High School, Hampton, VA:
Will NCLB lead to a national curriculum?

Secretary Rod Paige:
NCLB is built upon the fundamental reality that education is primarily a state and local matter.

That’s why the law asks for improved student achievement on state standards, using state assessments, measured by a state defined accountability system. NCLB recognizes each state has a unique situation and system that is designed for that state’s students. NCLB does NOT require a single national assessment to measure achievement of all students annually in grades 3-8.

What NCLB does require is a biennial administration of NAEP in grades 4 and 8 to a representative sample of students in each state to provide benchmarks on what our students know and can do, as well as help to compare an individual State’s educational progress to that of other states and the nation as a whole.

Question from Michael McFarland, Principal, Foster Middle School:
What was your pathway to the Secretary of Education positon? What characteristics do you consider to be crucial for a leader of the school district or leader of state education policy. As a young African American educator, and a member of TABSE, I appreciate the stance you have taken, what advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your foot steps?

Secretary Rod Paige:
It begins with a good solid education in elementary and secondary school. Followed by sound fundamentals in post secondary and graduate school. An interest in service. Some leaders in leadership positions are there because they want to be served and others want to serve. I want to serve. I have been a school board member and superintendent of a large school district. In addition a good strong opinion for organization behavior and studying the great masters such as Drucker, Crosby, and other CEO’s of America’s great corporations. All of these things must fall on top of personal character traits that any leader must have: integrity, honesty, and dedication, etc.

Question from Tonya W. Slaton, Assistant Principal, ELMS Middle School:
I presently oversee the special education department at my school. There are many concerns in reference to special ed and NCLB. I was told from the Director of Special Ed. in my system that only 1% of the special education population at my school could use the alternative assessment (on the IEP). Please clarify when and how we can use the alternative assessment.

Secretary Rod Paige:
The IEP team has the responsibility for determining how students with disabilities are assessed. For students with significant cognitive disabilities, the Department is finalizing rules that will enable these students to take an alternate assessment that is based on alternate achievement standards and include these scores in accountability decisions.

The Department is still working to finalize these rules about the use of alternate assessments against alternate achievement standards. Even so, we can state the following: There will not be limit on the number of students who can take the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. The limit will be imposed on how many students may be counted as ‘proficient’ on this assessment for making accountability decisions (i.e., adequate yearly progress, AYP).

The proposed rule stated that this limit would be 1% at the district and state level, not at the school level. The Department plans to finalize this rule (including the percentage who may be considered proficient) in the near future.

Question from anonymous:
We’ve seen several VT schools reject Title I funding to avoid NCLB sanctions. What are the repercussions? Can we expect to see many more schools reject Title I funds?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Title 1 funds are designed to help the neediest kids. It is our hope that school districts and states will invest this money wisely. We are taking a closer look at the very question you ask and expect to have an answer in the near future.

Question from Cheryl Pratt, Teacher, White Mtn. Elem., White Mountain, Alaska, Bering Strait School District:
Dear Mr. Paige, Remote villages in Alaska are isolated from urban areas where local staff members can attend college classes for certification. While some people are taking classes via audioconference many find it impossible to fit this type of training into a busy subsistence lifestyle of these Native peoples. What accomodations will be made for places such as “bush” Alaska? Quyanna (thank you)

Secretary Rod Paige:
This is a great question and one that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. In fact, I had the opportunity to visit several villages and schools in the “bush” just a few months ago. I was amazed by the challenges facing schools in Alaska, and heartened by the hardworking, dedicated teachers I met.

E-learning is an exciting area that is rapidly developing across the country. Teacher preparation programs, such as the one offered by the Western Governors University, may provide yet another opportunity for teachers in isolated locations to get the training and professional development they need. I continue to work with Commissioner Roger Sampson and Alaska’s Congressional delegation to explore other ways of recruiting, preparing, and retaining highly qualified teacher in your state and to make the promise of No Child Left Behind a reality for Alaska’s children

Question from Fred Cheney, Coordinator of Test Development, Massachusetts Dept. of Education:
Ten years is a brief period of time in which to get every child proficient or better. In Massachusetts our starting point is 37% proficient and advanced in grade 8 mathematics, and 42% proficient and advanced in grade 6. We know we don’t have a moment to lose. Please outline what might be an appropriate action plan for just the first two years.

Secretary Rod Paige:
12 years is a full generation of students.

Are we really willing to say to voters, taxpayers, and parents that we-the richest and most powerful nation on earth--are simply unable to “fix” our schools fast enough to ensure that all of today’s kindergartners graduate from high school with the reading, math, and science skills that they’ll need for success in higher education or the world of work? Are we willing to leave some of these children behind, perhaps very, very far behind?

Are British children smarter than ours are? Are their schools that much better?

Schools in England are on a trajectory to get 80% of their middle school students to the proficient level in both reading and math by 2002. They are doing this while they are narrowing achievement gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students. They began their six-year effort to meet this goal in 1996, when fewer than 60% percent of their middle school students were proficient in reading and fewer than 55% were proficient in math. Our 12-year timeline is twice as long as the one being met successfully by schools in England.

It’s not 12 years, it’s 20:

In 1994 Congress passed the Improving America’s Schools Act and Goals 2000. Together these programs were supposed to help all students reach high standards. Adding the 12 year timeline included in HR 1 to the years since the 1994 changes, states will have been given a full 20 years-until 2014-to get all of their students to the proficient level of performance. 20 years is a very long time.

Question from Dr. Mark McDaniel, Assistant Principal, Milford High School:
Delaware’s NCLB compliance requires that students who do not meet the standard be retained in the current grade but then the school is penalized for not graduating the child after four years of high school. Prior to NCLB we encouraged students who needed remediation, primarily those with special needs, to remain in school a fifth year so that they can achieve a higher level of competency. In order not to be penalized for this our school board has now lowered the credit requirement for special needs students, providing them less education. This seems to be conflict with the intent of the law. Are any revisions being developed to not penalize schools for providing extra services to special needs students who do not meet the standards and need the extra help?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Even prior to No Child Left Behind, Delaware showed itself as a state focused on high standards of achievement for every child.

Delaware is one of the few states that already had the capability to produce a fully disaggregated four-year graduation rate. NCLB gives states the flexibility to determine the standard number of years required to graduate and how to include in the graduation rate students with special needs who may require more time to graduate.

Delaware chose to require all students to graduate in four years. Since the graduation rate is based on students who graduate with a standard diploma, students who choose to participate in an alternate high school degree program are calculated in the graduation rate as non-graduates.

Question from Cynthia M. DeNardis, Teacher, Michigan School Readiness Program:
If the Federal Government is so interested in raising the bar for all the children in America, why is every state on their own to determine the bar? Every state should be on the same level. If not, why compare state to state?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Our national constitution leaves the management and responsibility of public schools to the states. This law builds upon the work of states and communities over the past several years. They have established standards, adopted curriculum, and created assessments to measure student and school progress. Education is a state and local responsibility, but a national interest. We supplement state resources and efforts not supplant them. NCLB asks every state to improve from where they are currently to the goal of all students being proficient.

Question from Bobbie Benson, adjunct prof, Univ. of Colorado:
Research shows us that one of the best ways to help students is to have teachers that are well trained themselves. Wouldn’t our dollars be better spent by doing staff development with teachers rather than spending so much on testing?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Research suggests that the most important indicator of student success is the quality of the classroom teacher. I believe we can -- and will do both: we can fund quality professional development AND make strategic investments on testing and assessments so we can identify our students’ strengths and weaknesses and get help to those who need it.

Through NCLB, we’re investing $3.7 billion, on top of what states and local communities are spending on professional development and training.

Just a few weeks ago, I joined President Bush to unveil a new toolkit for teachers to provide them with information about the new law and how we will work with them to meet the “highly qualified” requirements of the law. I encourage you check out these resources online at

Question from Gene Bender, Chemistry Instructor, MSU-Bottineau:
How is the federal government going to deal with the “highly qualified teacher” issue in the small rural states such as North Dakota, Montana, etc. where a major in every subject taught is a logistical nightmare?

Secretary Rod Paige:
We have created a Rural Task Force that is studying this issue. We believe the law has enough flexibility in it to accommodate these problems. We want to make sure that every child has access to a teacher who is competent in their subject area. I have dispatched a Teachers Assistance Corps to visit every state to examine best practices in achieving a highly qualified teacher in every classroom, and share those practices with other states and communities. Tomorrow I will be hosting a virtual town hall meeting highlighting four communities who are using technology to achieve the goals of the law.

Question from Susanna Cooper, associate editor, the Sacramento Bee:
Many California schools failed to meet AYP simply because they missed the 95 percent participation rate in one or two categories. Will the administration consider amending NCLB to ease the participation rate standard, even slightly?

Secretary Rod Paige:
No we believe that the 95% participation rate is a vital part of the program. There are many critics who want to open up the law before it has been given a chance to work. Let’s give it that chance.

Question from Mary Ellen Kotz, Instructional Specialist:
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has established high standards of performance for teachers in the nation. How do you intend to support this certification in the terms of “highly qualified?”

Secretary Rod Paige:
As you know, the highly qualified teacher provisions of the law recognize the important role teachers play in student learning and ensure that all students are taught by qualified teachers who are well versed in the subject they teach. This is one of the most important features of this law.

The law recognizes advanced certification, such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence master teacher certificates, as ways middle and secondary school teachers can demonstrate subject matter competence to meet the highly qualified teacher requirements. These programs also serve as valuable professional development exercises for teachers.

Question from Kristin Groos, VP, Programs and Development, Resources for Indispensable Schools and Educators:
How can we best retain quality teachers in low-income urban public schools?

Secretary Rod Paige:
I have seen data that show teachers who are better prepared stay in the classroom longer. We are investing over 2.85 billion dollars to provide states with resources to enhance their teacher quality. We rely on states and districts to find effective ways to provide teachers with the training and support to be successful in the classroom.

Question from Diane Filardo, District Test Coordinator, Norwalk Public Schools:
What can be done for students who request a transfer when high-performing schools in the district are at capacity?

Secretary Rod Paige:
The school district can come up with innovative ways to meet the students needs. They can use supplemental services sooner, can create charter schools, and can create schools inside of schools. They can even use technology to provide choices and options for students. The district can also work with other nearby districts to provide more options to parents. All of these choices can be accomplished by effectively utilizing Title I funds. The bottom line is these students need extra assistance to attain the education they deserve.

Question from John Capozzi, Parent of DCPS Students, Camille, 5 and Hans, 2:
Secretary Paige, As an opponent of the School Voucher program that you have proposed for DC, I wanted to ask why you are reneging on your promise to push control of schools from the federal to local control. A majority of DC residents oppose Vouchers. DC residents do not have representation in the Senate and our Delegate can’t vote in the House. Why can’t you support a District-wide referendum to be voted on by us, the residents that would be on the ballot in September 2004?

Secretary Rod Paige:
We have seen many polls that show that the majority of parents in DC support vouchers especially minority parents. The Mayor of DC and many school board members both strongly support the voucher plan.

Question from Tom Tobin, reporter, St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL:
Mr. Secretary: As you know, a deep reservoir of research points to many possible causes for the achievement gap between black and non-black students. Some researchers have concentrated on factors that can be controlled by school districts. Others have pointed to cultural factors. Have you come to any conclusions about how much of the solution to this lingering problem rests with school districts and how much should come from black communities across the nation? And do you believe the gap can be eliminated within our lifetimes?

Secretary Rod Paige:
The whole purpose of No Child Left Behind is to eliminate the achievement gap. This gap can be eliminated in our lifetime because there are places where the gap has been eliminated. The school is the primary factor in elimating the achievement gap in partnership with parents.

Question from Jack Shay, Special Ass’t . to the President, Macomb Community College:
Most Americans believe in local control of education. Why does a Republication Administration advocate Federal control of education?

Secretary Rod Paige:
No Child Left Behind is a bi partisan act both Republicans and Democrats support it. It is not a federal imposition it itis built on the collective efforts of individual states.

Question from Jo Anne Schreiber, Tech Teacher, Risley Middle School, Brunswick, GA:
My students need a lot more than content and are almost all at-risk. How will the NCLB legislation help me in my classroom in a poor town in Georgia?

Secretary Rod Paige:
NCLB has historic levels of funding to help America’s neediest children. NCLB is historic in expecting all students to achieve, no matter where they are and where they come from. Content is key and there are many examples of at risk students achieving high levels despite challenging circumstances. If we do not focus on content then we have done students a disservice.

Question from Clare Harrison, Parent:
NCLB has focused funding on reading with the Reading First grants. We know math is an important objective based on the math and science initiative. Can you give us an update on the planned legislation and funding for math?

Secretary Rod Paige:
There is a big focus on developing the research around the pedagogy of Math. This is funded through the National Science Foundation. There are a number of efforts underway to improve Math instruction. Keep an eye on our website for more information.

Question from Gerry Kosanovic, Principal, Wilson Elementary School, Corvallis, Oregon:
In the entire history of the educational profession there has never been 100% achievement by all students at all times. Both the pace and the forecast of total success by the year 2014 appears to set educators up for failure. What is the rationale in setting unrealistic goals at an unachievable breakneck pace?

Secretary Rod Paige:
Education is currently failing many of our children. We are trying to improve that through NCLB. If you do not support 100% of our children, which percentage do you suggest that we leave behind?

Question from Kathleen Hedberg, Instructor, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College:
We are attempting to work with Paraprofessional Educators to earn their two year degree required by NCLB. Does the government have any plans to help these minimum wage workers pay for two years of college while they are trying to work, support their families, and go to school?

Secretary Rod Paige:
There is over 2.8 billion dollars to enhance teacher quality including paraprofessionals. The requirement in the law asks for paraprofessionals to be high quality through three routes, one of which is two years of college. There are other avenues for paraprofessionals to demonstrate their abilities.

Question from linda beliveau mom:
When discussing NCLB with districts they don’t seem to be taking it seriously. I volunteer with special education students and their parents and go to IEP meetings and the district seems to not be threatened by it. I walk into my meeting with the NCLB desk reference, the regulations, and when I ask questions about NCLB they really don’t seem to care.

Secretary Rod Paige:
Thank you for being involved in your child’s education. It is my hope that communities across the country take this law as seriously as you do. When you see specific non compliance with the law you should file that complaint with district and state officials. I intend to vigorously enforce the law. I have seen a lot of progress in the states and I hope that progress continues.

Question from Bob Barber, Schoolmaster, Bethel Mill Prep:
Yesterday, Rep. Rob Andrews (D, NJ) said that he wants congress to address what he called the misinterpretation of NCLB by your department. After examining a preliminary list of schools in NJ that will receive warnings soon, he said that instead of poor schools being challenged to improve, excellent schools were being harassed. He said the inclusion of special education students and students whose first language is not English in testing results causes this inequity. Can you respond?

Secretary Rod Paige:
NCLB aims to improve the education of ALL children. It is impossible now to hide behind averages. We have a moral obligation to help the students who have historically been left behind. NCLB forces us to look beyond the averages and dig deeper to find solutions for every student.

Lynn Olson (Moderator):

I’m afraid our time is up. We’ve gotten a tremendous response from participants -- more than 400 questions. We haven’t had a chance to get to them all but we did our best to capture the breadth of questions asked. Mr. Secretary, on behalf of our Education Week readers, we appreciate your responsiveness and willingness to take time to answer our questions this afternoon. A transcript of this TalkBack Live session will be available at

The Fine Print
All questions are screened by an Education Week online editor and the guest speaker prior to posting. A question is not displayed until it is answered by the guest speaker. We cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, or answered in the order of submission. Concise questions are encouraged.

Please be sure to include your name and affiliation when posting your question.

Education Week maintains Live Chat as an open forum where readers can participate in a give-and-take discussion with a variety of guests. Education Week reserves the right to condense or edit questions for clarity, but editing is kept to a minimum. Questions may also be reproduced in some form in our print edition. We attempt to correct errors in spelling, punctuation, etc. In addition, we remove statements that have the potential to be libelous or to slander someone. In cases in which people make claims that could be libelous, we will remove the names of institutions and departments. But in those cases, we will not alter the ideas contained in the questions.

Please read our Privacy Statement and Visitor Agreement if you have questions.