FALLS CHURCH, Va. - President Bush yesterday proposed a $1.5 billion federal initiative to raise educational standards for high school students, a plan that includes requiring high school students to take annual tests in reading and math.
Speaking at the J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va., Mr. Bush said expanding yearly testing to students through grade 11 will help narrow the achievement gap facing many minority students and counter the nation's high drop-out rate.
"If you believe every child can learn, then it makes sense to measure to determine whether every child is learning," Mr. Bush said at the suburban Washington school.
Mr. Bush said his plan would include $200 million for a literacy program for struggling adolescent readers, $120 million to improve the way high school math is taught, and $500 million for a proposal to give financial rewards to teachers whose students show improvement.
In addition, Mr. Bush's initiative includes more federal dollars for programs aimed at top high school students, including a 73 percent increase for advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs; $12 million to expand state scholar programs; and an increase in Pell grants for high-achieving, low-income students.
But the centerpiece of Mr. Bush' proposal is his effort to extend the yearly testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, which is focused on narrowing the achievement gap that leaves many black and Hispanic students lagging behind white and Asian students.
Under the three-year-old law, students are required to be tested annually in reading and math in grades three through eight, and at least once during high school. As part of his high school initiative, Mr. Bush also earmarked $250 million to require that the 12th-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and math be given in every state every two years, as it is in grades four and eight. The requirement would allow states to compare results for high school seniors for the first time.
"Testing is important. Testing at high school levels will help us to become more competitive as the years go by," Mr. Bush said. "Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century. Testing will make sure the diploma is not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed."
Mr. Bush's high school proposal drew immediate criticism from Democrats and some education groups. While applauding his effort to improve high schools, these critics contended that the President should fully fund the current No Child Left Behind law before expanding it to more grades.
Under Mr. Bush, federal education funding has risen by 40 percent, from $17.3 billion to $24.3 billion. But critics, including National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, contend the increase has not matched Mr. Bush's promises and is not enough to pay the costs of creating and grading the tests required by the new law.
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