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Paige touts progress of No Child Left Behind

Secretary of Education Rod Paige
George W. Bush

(CNN) -- Schools are being held accountable and are progressing under the Bush administration, Secretary of Education Rod Paige told the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

Paige said the No Child Left Behind Act is succeeding even though work remains to be done.

"All across America," Paige said, "test scores are rising; students are learning; the achievement gap is closing; teachers and principals are beaming with pride." (Transcript)

The No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in January 2002. The law requires each state to demonstrate that it has developed challenging standards for students in reading and math and, in future years, science. Each state must annually test every child's progress in reading and math in third through eighth grades and at least once during 10th through 12th grades.

In a recent weekly radio address, President Bush promised to increase school funding in next year's budget to $37 billion, "a 49 percent increase since 2001."

Some critics have complained that the program is underfunded while others say it is too ambitious.

"Our opponents voted for No Child Left Behind," Paige said. "They praised it then. Now they 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 public schools, do not underestimate our teachers, and never underestimate our children."

Paige, who was superintendent of Houston Independent School District while Bush was governor of Texas, said the president understands that the greatness of a nation can only be sustained through an all-inclusive education system.

Bush wants high standards for students, proper resources for teachers and opportunities for parents to be involved, Paige said.

In previous administrations, increasingly more money was spent on education, but the "achievement gap persisted," he said.

Students were being "robbed," said Paige, 71, who grew up in segregated Mississippi.

"[Bush] proposed a plan," Paige said. "High standards, measurable goals, real consequences and resources to get the job done.

"He promised results. He delivered results."

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