Original URL: http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/opinion/9381.php

U.S., state laws help students succeed

 By Joseph P. Coyle  Section: Opinion

When President Bush entered office in January 2001, only 11 states were in compliance with federal education standards.
Just those 11 states were giving students the education they needed to compete as adults in an increasingly global market.
By June 2003, all 50 states had generated road maps to better achievement under the president's No Child Left Behind Act.
Arizona took a huge step even earlier in October 2002 when we passed a school-improvement plan advocated by Arizona businesses - and we continue to support it.
The driving principle of No Child Left Behind and Arizona's plan - Arizona LEARNS (Leading Education through the Accountability and Results Notification System) - is simply better student achievement.
It is critical that all students learn academic basics and even more critical that we know when they aren't.
 The federal law seeks to close gaps in performance and curriculum among states.
Arizona LEARNS seeks to close those gaps within our state and between high-performing and low-performing schools in a single district.
Arizona business leaders are pleased to see progress has been made in just a short time.
It isn't easy, and much work lies ahead, yet many of our schools are showing achievement gains and receiving more financial support from the federal government.
Together, the federal and state plans are erasing the "soft bigotry of low expectations" by reminding all parents, educators and students that they can succeed, regardless of what any socioeconomic labels may lead them to believe.
Locally, Pima County schools and neighborhoods are taking aggressive steps - organizationally and academically - to help our students as the spirit of No Child Left Behind is realized.
Tucson Unified School District reduced wasteful energy use to better appropriate funds for student gain. Underperforming schools, such as Drexel Elementary in the Sunnyside Unified School District, are tutoring students in smaller groups and extending the academic day.
Sunnyside also sought an independent organization to help identify and correct districtwide weaknesses.
Neighborhoods are advancing literacy programs to bolster students' reading skills outside of the classroom.
And students across Pima County are winning national scholarships, participating in youth conferences at the federal level and earning grants to give back to their own community. This is improvement in action.
The federal law, supported here by state LEARNS and Proposition 301 from the 2000 election cycle, has provided Arizona public schools with $116 million for reading initiatives, plus more funds for teachers' pay and rural schools.
Bush promises more money to schools that can demonstrate how the money will generate results.
We are pleased the president's 2005 budget represents a 48 percent increase for elementary and secondary education over fiscal year 2001.
It asks for a 52 percent increase in funding to disadvantaged students, $138 million more for early literacy initiatives, and a 75 percent increase in special-education funding since Bush took office.
Arizona businesses believe every child can learn and meet a rising bar of expectations. The America of tomorrow is being shaped in the classrooms of today. It is an investment that will return benefits for years to come.
There is no more urgent domestic priority than to ensure our schools insist on higher standards and that our students learn a curriculum that makes them globally competitive.
Future teachers, future business leaders, future scientists and even future presidents are receiving a better education because the No Child Left Behind Act gives their schools more resources and higher goals.
* Joseph P. Coyle is vice president of human resources and external affairs for Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson and serves as chairman of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the 2001 Governor's Task Force on Efficiency and Accountability in K-12 Education.