Bush touts 'No Child Left Behind,' education reform with Colorado allies | Schools
DENVER -- Former President George W. Bush paid tribute to Get Smart Schools, a local education reform nonprofit, in brief comments after a roundtable discussion there Thursday morning.
After a 30-minute discussion with 21 Colorado educators, elected officials and business leaders, Bush made about two minutes of remarks to the media, but took no questions, even ignoring one about the death Thursday morning of Libyan dictator Mummar Gahdafi.
Here's what Bush said:
"I'm here to honor a program called Get Smart. It's a program that says every child can learn. In other words, Amy [Slothower, the head of Get Smart Schools] believes every child can learn and is willing to train leaders who believe that as well.
"Post-presidency is an interesting period for Laura and me. I'm out of politics, but I love being in the arena. I'm now an observer, but I still have great passion about educational excellence. One of the things we're doing at the Bush Center at SMU is to work with groups such as Get Smart and set up a collaborative effort with educational entrepreneurs to develop best practices for training leaders in the classroom.
"We believe that an excellent school must first of all have an excellent leader."
The Bush Institute invited 23 people to take part in the panel, all of them prominent education reform advocates (for a full list of rundtable participants, scroll to the bottom of this story).
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who Get Smart Schools suggested receive an invitation, was not asked to participate in the panel.
Bush did take a moment to recognize Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who was chosen by the Bush Institute to take part in the panel discussion.
"I appreciate the example you set," Bush told Hancock with cameras rolling. "One of the things I often tell people is you're often going to get dealt a hand you're not going to want to play in life, it's going to happen to us all. Mayor, you got dealt a tough hand and you played it with class; and now you have a chance to lead and you are."
Hancock, elected mayor in June after a strong campaign that emphasized his inspiring rise out of poverty, has been a strong and outspoken supporter of education reform efforts in Denver and ideas that were elemental to Bush's signature education law, "No Child Left Behind."
After the roundtable, Hancock told reporters that Bush celebrated the reforms taking place in Colorado.
"He really talked about accountability and how it's important to make sure that the leader of the institution sets the right tone for achievement and accomplishments in the school," Hancock said.
Hancock also called Bush's foray into education with NCLB "a legacy [that laid] the groundwork for accountability" in education.
Bush's visit comes just as voters are set to decide three school board races that will determine whether the Denver Public Schools reform agenda continues or not -- and as lawmakers in Congress are set to re-write and drastically alter NCLB with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, who took part in the panel, has pushed many of the reform ideas the Bush Institute is embracing, but noted afterward that NCLB was hardly a success and needs to be re-written.
"We want to see a legislation that really recognizes progress and growth with students," Boasberg said. "And we want a system that offers support. We think for every measure of accountability there needs to be a measure of support for our teachers, for our schools."
NCLB measures accountability based on where students are in terms of their academic proficiency. Passed in 2001, the law laid out a plan for standards-based education reform with the requirement that all students be on grade level by 2014.
"Student growth [is] one of the areas where NCLB was weakest," Boasberg said. "That's one of the areas where we've worked very closely with our teachers and the supports of our teachers to have a real system where we focus on growth, on the year-to-year growth of our students."
Boasberg's predecessor at DPS, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, is leading the push in Washington to remove the mandates of NCLB with the new ESEA legislation.
After the roundtable Thursday, the Bush Institute's director for education reform, Kerri Briggs, admitted that she's nervous about what she's seen from Washington.
"We all recognize we've learned a lot in the last 10 years about how accountability can unfold, how school reform can happen, how schools can improve, how important it is to measure and hold schools accountability," Briggs said.
"We're worried. Some of the accountability things we're seeing out of some of the draft languages [of the ESEA bill] are not great."
FULL LIST OF PANEL PARTICPANTS:
President George W. Bush
Tom Boasberg, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools
Kerri Briggs, Director, Education Reform, George W. Bush Institute
James Cryan, Former Fellow, Get Smart Schools; Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Prep
Mary Faith Hall, Former Fellow, Get Smart Schools; Principal, Thomas McLaren Academy
Patrick Hamill, Board Member, Get Smart Schools; President and Founder, Oakwood Homes, LLC
Mayor Michael Hancock, City of Denver
Rachel Kelley, Director of Alumni Affairs, TFA-Denver Region
Erin Mack Trapanese, Fellow, Get Smart Schools
Dedrick Sims, Fellow, Get Smart Schools
Amy Slothower, Founding Executive Director, Get Smart Schools
Bill Soards, President, AT&T Colorado
Kelly Brough, Chief Executive, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
Greg Cameron, Senior Director, Field Services, McREL
Doug Elliott, Assistant Vice President, Grants, Daniels Fund
Thomas Gougeon, President, Gates Family Foundation
Ted Harms, Executive Director, Anschutz Foundation
Rebecca Holmes, Executive Director, KIPP Colorado Schools
Mike Meece, Chief of Staff, Office of President George W. Bush
Wyatt Smith, Regional Director of Donor Relations, George W. Bush Foundation
Rob Stein, Senior Advisor for Leadership Development, Get Smart Schools
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