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Paige: 'No Child Left Behind is working'

Education Secretary Rod Paige: "We inherited a great nation -- and so must our children."
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Education Secretary Rod Paige addressed the Republican National Convention on its second night, touting the No Child Left Behind Act. This is a transcript of his remarks.

Good evening, fellow Americans.

We live in a great country, a nation of good people in pursuit of great ideals -- defined by our founders and defended by citizen- soldiers, and delivered to us.

We inherited a great nation -- and so must our children.

Whatever the size of our armed forces or economy, no nation can sustain its greatness unless it educates all of its citizens, not just some of it.

No one understands this better than President Bush.

He's always had a compassionate vision for education: Students challenged by high standards; teachers armed with proper resources; parents empowered with information and choices. And young adults with meaningful diplomas in their hands -- not despair in their hearts.

He saw many schools that shared his vision. They have dedicated teachers and outstanding administrators and involved parents.

They're in cities, suburbs and rural communities.

But there was also schools where young minds were left unengaged, good teachers left unsupported, standards left unused.

Kids who passed through these schools are robbed of their life's potential. And so are we.

Other presidents tried to fix this problem. But even as education spending skyrocketed, the achievement gap persisted.

On a personal note, in my youth, I attended segregated schools. I was in college when the Supreme Court announced Brown v. Board of Education. I felt liberated that day, because I thought true equality would soon follow. It did not.

While Brown opened the schoolhouse door to all, it did not guarantee quality education for all. President Bush saw this two- tiered system as unacceptable, so he proposed a plan: high standards, measurable goals, real consequences and the resources to get the job done.

He promised results. He delivered results.

The president's first legislative proposal was the No Child Left Behind Act. This bipartisan law raises the bar for all students, no matter their race or income level. It challenges what the president calls the "soft bigotry of low expectations." Its goal is simple: All students read and do math at grade level.

States, not Washington, set standards. Schools that need assistance get assistance. Support for education under President Bush has gone up 36 percent...

...with more funds requested for disadvantaged students than during the entire Clinton administration.

As Yogi Berra would say, "You can check that out."

Now schools are held accountable for making real progress. If they don't, parents have real choices such as after-school homework help or the choice of another school.

Ladies and gentlemen, No Child Left Behind is working.

All across America, test scores are rising; students are learning; the achievement gap is closing; teachers and principals are beaming with pride. And President Bush also increased Pell Grant funding so 1 million more adults can afford college.

Although much remains, our choice is simple: We can either build on these achievements or we can return to the days of excuses and indifference. Our opponents voted for No Child Left Behind. Now, they try to attack it. They say, "No Child Left Behind should be watered down. Schools can't handle change. Some children just can't learn."

We say, "Do not underestimate our schools. Do not underestimate our teachers. And never underestimate our children."

High standards, achievement are on the right track -- and we are not going back.

Now, this election may be multiple choice, but there's only one correct choice: To go forward, not back. To choose compassion, not cynicism. To set high standards, not settle for second-best.

To elect a true reformer with proven results -- not a Johnny Come Lately with mere promises.

Only one candidate has created an education system worthy of a great nation: President George W. Bush.

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