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Graduating from high school is about to get a little bit harder.

It's been just over three years since President George W. Bush announced his No Child Left Behind program -- which he now plans to extend to high-school students.

At yesterday's inauguration, Bush reaffirmed his dedication to education reform, saying that "we will bring the highest standards to our schools."

But College junior Andrew Parker, a team leader for the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project -- a one-on-one tutoring program run by the University's Civic House -- questioned whether the aims of No Child Left Behind have been successful in West Philadelphia schools.

No Child Left Behind now requires elementary- and middle-school students to pass minimum requirements in math and reading state tests.

Parker, who volunteers at the Sulzberger Middle School, works with students -- often those who are slightly behind -- so that they can meet the requirements for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.

No Child Left Behind has been successful in raising the test scores of local students, according to the School District of Philadelphia. Overall math and reading scores were up 6 percentage points during the 2003-2004 school year from the previous year.

"School District of Philadelphia CEO Paul Vallas supports the current federal No Child Left Behind law because he feels the law rightly aims to close the achievement gap between majority and minority students and sets high expectations for all students," district spokesman Vincent Thompson said.

However, he added that district officials have no comment on Bush's proposed changes to No Child Left Behind due to the lack of a formal proposal.

Parker said he was less than impressed with what he considered to be the under-funding of No Child Left Behind.

"If the government is not giving the states enough to fund the lower grades, how can the states fund the high schools?" Parker asked, voicing his apprehension regarding Bush's desire to extend the program.

Andrew Sparks, a doctoral student in education policy at Penn and the director of the America Reads, America Counts program run through Penn's Center for Community Partnerships, said he felt that expanding the No Child Left Behind program would not radically change the nature of the program.

"While [Bush] hasn't unveiled any specifics, there is no reason to believe that what he proposes for high schools will be significantly different than what is already in place."

Sparks also voiced his concern that individual states are allowed to determine the level of proficiency required.

"There are standards within states, but not across states," he said, pointing to the inherent lack of national standards.

Sparks noted that West Philadelphia schools are struggling to keep up with No Child Left Behind more than other schools in the state.

If over the course of several years schools in the area do not meet certain standards, they run the risk of being "reconstituted," which involves the firing and re-hiring of administration and teachers.

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