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President Calls For Renewal Of NCLB During Visit To Harlem Charter School

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TWC News: President Calls For Renewal Of NCLB During Visit To Harlem Charter School
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President George Bush delivered a speech Tuesday afternoon at the Harlem Village Academy as part of his push to get Congress to renew the controversial No Child Left Behind Act.

He spent some time visiting with children at the school on Seventh Avenue and 144th Street before pushing for Congress to renew the act, which was first introduced in 2002. It is set to expire next year unless lawmakers reauthorize it.

NCLB ranks school and teachers based on reading and math standardized test scores of third through eighth graders.

“It's unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to you if we have an achievement gap in America,” said the president.

The president says he chose the Village Academy for his speech because 88 percent of students recruited for the charter school come from families who live near or below the poverty level, and 96 percent of the students passed their math exams.

Bush says the law helps hold schools accountable. He adds that giving parents more options on where to send their children, plus higher standards in schools, will improve a child’s education.

“You set low standards, you get bad results. I used to call it the soft bigotry of low expectations,” he said. “You kind of say well, certain people can't learn, so make sure the standards are low. This school challenges that soft bigotry and insists upon high standards.”

Critics of the act complain that it's poorly funded and puts too much attention on test scores.

The academy is considered one of the city's most successful charter schools and is ranked among the top schools in the state.

Given the success of the school it's evident why the president came to the school, but he's stepping into unfriendly territory; Harlem voted overwhelmingly against him in the election.

Politics aside, the president has at least one local supporter in his corner. The head of the Ways and Means Committee, Harlem's Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, says he'll work with the president to pass the bill.

“It is not adequately funded and that's what we have to be concerned about,” said Rangel. “The principals probably should have more flexibility in how they deliver the services, but having it as it is, is better than not having it at all.”

And students at the school agree tough love works.

“At my other school I didn't get too many good grades, but when I came here in fifth grade I started to get As and Bs,” said Elijah Barnhill, a student at the charter school. “I think that is because this school stays on top of you all the time and makes sure you do all your work.”

Later Tuesday tonight, the president attended a Republican National Committee dinner at a private Manhattan residence before heading back to the White House.

The president’s visit caused traffic tie ups in the area.

Some crosstown streets were closed and frozen zones were set up as the president's motorcade moves around.

Those heading into Upper Manhattan were urged to take mass transit.
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