What It Takes to Make a Student December 10, 2006Posted by C.A.R.D in Asian, Black, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discriminate, Discrimination, Hispanic, White.
On the morning of Oct. 5, President Bush and his education secretary, Margaret Spellings, paid a visit, along with camera crews from CNN and Fox News, to Friendship-Woodridge Elementary and Middle Campus, a charter public school in Washington. The president dropped in on two classrooms, where he asked the students, almost all of whom were African-American and poor, if they were planning to go to college. Every hand went up. “See, that’s a good sign,” the president told the students when they assembled later in the gym. “Going to college is an important goal for the future of the United States of America.” He singled out one student, a black eighth grader named Asia Goode, who came to Woodridge four years earlier reading “well below grade level.” But things had changed for Asia, according to the president. “Her teachers stayed after school to tutor her, and she caught up,” he said. “Asia is now an honors student. She loves reading, and she sings in the school choir.”
Bush’s Woodridge trip came in the middle of a tough midterm election campaign, and there was certainly some short-term political calculation in being photographed among smiling black faces. But this was more than a photo opportunity. The president had come to Woodridge to talk about the most ambitious piece of domestic legislation his administration had enacted after almost six years in office: No Child Left Behind. The controversial education law, which established a series of standards for schools and states to meet and a variety of penalties for falling short, is up for reauthorization next year in front of a potentially hostile Congress, and for the law to win approval again, the White House will have to convince Americans that it is working — and also convince them of exactly what, in this case, “working” really means.
When the law took effect, at the beginning of 2002, official Washington was preoccupied with foreign affairs, and many people in government, and many outside it too, including the educators most affected by the legislation, seemed slow to take notice of its most revolutionary provision: a pledge to eliminate, in just 12 years, the achievement gap between black and white students, and the one between poor and middle-class students. By 2014, the president vowed, African-American, Hispanic and poor children, all of whom were at the time scoring well below their white counterparts and those in the middle class on standardized tests, would not only catch up with the rest of the nation; they would also reach 100 percent proficiency in both math and reading. It was a startling commitment, and it made the promise in the law’s title a literal one: the federal government would not allow a single American child to be educated to less than that high standard.
It was this element of the law that the president had come to Woodridge to talk about. “There’s an achievement gap in America that’s not good for the future of this country,” he told the crowd. “Some kids can read at grade level, and some can’t. And that’s unsatisfactory.”