To the editor:

A few questions were posed in a recent opinion article (“Accountability This!” Oct. 14) that warrant an answer. In her haste to attack U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s response to The New Yorker, Ms. Reynolds-Ward missed the point.

When she discussed sacrificing a company’s loyal employees to meet the bottom line, Ms. Reynolds-Ward didn’t understand that students aren’t the loyal employees in her scenario – they are the bottom line.

No Child Left Behind was written with the children who most need our help in mind. President Bush has targeted the highest levels of federal funding ever for students with disabilities, those who are learning the English language, and those who live in poverty.

Public school accountability is a common theme because we, as a nation, spend over $470 billion on education. That’s more than we spend on defense. That investment bought an education system that only educates some of its students. The crisis in education is more than “perceived.” It is real, and poses a real threat to the future of our nation.

National reading assessments show that two-thirds of fourth-graders can’t read proficiently. Performance in math and science is even worse. When high school seniors took the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress for mathematics, 88 percent could not calculate the interest they would earn on their savings account, even with the help of a calculator. Let us hope that it doesn’t take another Sputnik for us to realize the importance of implementing this law.

The law’s “main schtick” is stated right on the cover: to close the achievement gap. The No Child Left Behind law protects all students from being forced to accept whatever the educational system hands them. For too long, the students who have been left behind, who are mostly poor and mostly minority, have been left to suffer silently, their poor achievement swallowed up in averages.

Ms. Reynolds-Ward’s analysis was inaccurate and incomplete. When a school is identified for improvement, they are not punished. Resources are not immediately withheld. There is no mass exodus or hostile takeover. Instead, the students in these schools are eligible for the extra help, like free tutoring after school. These services are paid for by federal dollars via their state’s Title I funding.

Secretary Paige is leading a dedicated staff at the Department of Education that is helping states and districts implement a tough law. No Child Left Behind finally ensures that all students count, regardless of race, income, or disability.

John Gibbons


Office of Public Affairs

U.S. Department of Education