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Minnesota gets OK for No Child Left Behind plan
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President George W. Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige discuss the progress of the No Child Left Behind Act in the Rose Garden Tuesday, June 10, 2003. (White House photo)
Federal education officials have approved Minnesota's plan for complying with the No Child Left Behind law. President Bush announced on Tuesday that the remaining 17 states, including Minnesota, had completed plans to determine whether schools and school districts are making adequate yearly progress. The president described the approval as a historic milestone for accountability.

St. Paul, Minn. — The federal No Child Left Behind law required every state to submit an accountability plan that will bring about gains in student performance. During a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush said the approval of the remaining state plans marked the end to what he calls "the era of low expectations and low standards" and the arrival of a "time of great hopes and proven results."

"Every child in every school must be performing at grade level in the basic subjects that are key to all learning, reading and math. The ambitious goal is the fundamental duty of every single school. And it must and it will be fulfilled," Bush said.

The federal law requires states to describe strategies for closing the achievement gap and making sure all students achieve academic proficiency. Minnesota's plan defines proficient as a score of 1420 or better on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, the tests currently given annually to third and fifth graders.

States must also produce annual report cards that show the public how well schools and districts are performing. Bush says the federal government is providing more money than ever before to help schools improve.

"Pouring money into systems that do not teach and refuse to change will not help our children. We help children by measuring the educational progress of very single child. And by insisting on change when progress is not made," Bush said.

The president was joined by chief state school officials from throughout the country, including Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke. Minnesota's compliance plan was submitted in January, months before state lawmakers repealed the Profile of Learning and established new academic standards. Yecke says those pending changes were outlined in the plan.

"It talks about how we're transitioning from one set of standards to another. So, that was understood when we submitted the plan. They knew we were in transition and that's fine. We're not going to have to re-submit," she said.

Yecke, who worked in the U.S. Education Department before coming to Minnesota, says the beauty of No Child Left Behind is its identification of problems in the education system. Schools not making progress must provide supplemental services, such as free tutoring. After five years, more dramatic changes are required in underperforming schools. Yecke says problems must be identified before they can be solved.

"For the first time ever we will know and we will be reporting on a school by school basis, the achievement, not just for the school as a whole, but for each catagory of children in that school. For black students, Hispanic students, special education students, so there will be a large amount of information for parents, so that parents can become empowered with that information and be able to make the best choices for their children," she said.

A recent state analysis of school performance data showed more than 400 Minnesota elementary schools need at least some improvement. And 90 percent of the schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul were identified. State education officials plan to release the official list of underperforming schools on July 31.

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