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Paige Lauds "Choice," "Creativity," and "Opportunity" NCLB Offers

President Bush's top education adviser praised the Bay State's MCAS exam yesterday for making sure students graduate with the tools to succeed.

``Massachusetts has decided to measure, to determine whether or not these tools are there,'' Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in an interview with the Herald. ``I congratulate the state for that.''

Paige was in town to speak at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he promoted school choice as a necessary ingredient to fix public education.

``Choice is essential for authentic public school reform,'' he said.

Addressing critics who say choice will destroy public education, Paige said monopolies were not good for education. ``We must break the stranglehold on education of those whose first priority is the system,'' he said.

Bush's No Child Left Behind Act has been law for nearly a year and a half. Paige is the biggest promoter of the act, billed as the most significant change in education policy in nearly 40 years.

The former Houston superintendent, who spoke at Harvard in a pinstripe suit and cowboy boots, said one surprise in taking office has been the strength of criticism.

``Every great change has its critics,'' he said.

Responding to criticism, notably from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), that the No Child Left Behind Act is underfunded, Paige said more money was not the answer.

``The idea that the No Child Left Behind Act is an unfunded mandate, the whole idea is ludicrous. More money is available to educate children than ever before,'' he said.

``The people who demanded more money should be held accountable for the billions of dollars they spent up to this point. They should be asked to show the results of the taxpayers' money they spent without results.''

One of the changes brought on by the No Child Left Behind Act is to let parents transfer their kids out of underperforming schools. Paige said new solutions to failing schools will be found in the next several years.

``There will be a lot of creativity that is going, I think, to take place in the next few years that will be driven by the opportunities that this bill presents,'' he said.

— by Kevin Rothstein
Education secretary gives A's to MCAS
Boston Herald
April 15, 2003


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