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U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon Offers Commencement Address at Brighter Choice Charter Schools 4th Grade Graduation


Albany, N.Y. - U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon today highlighted the efforts of our nationís charter schools to empower parents and improve access to quality education for all students during a visit to Brighter Choice Charter Schools in Albany, N.Y. Offering the keynote address at the schoolís 4th grade commencement ceremony, Secretary Simon congratulated the students and teachers for their hard work to achieve the top ranking among Albany schools in English and math assessment scores.

Additionally, Secretary Simon underscored the importance of No Child Left Behind reauthorization this year and touted President Bushís proposal to expand the availability of charter schools and provide more options for families. Following are Secretary Simonís remarks to the graduates:

Thank you for that introduction. And thank you everyone for welcoming me to your wonderful school.

Iíve been looking forward to meeting all of you. And Iím especially honored to celebrate your graduation.

In our nationís capitol, where I work, Iíve been hearing lots of great things about the boys and girls of Brighter Choice Elementary.

Like how extremely smart and talented you are. And how youíve helped your community with the Penny Harvest. And what a great basketball team youíve got. And that you recently learned how to make a pretty mean smoothie.

Now, thatís something I need to learn!

Both Secretary Spellings and President Bush asked me to send along their congratulations. In fact, when the President heard I was coming to visit all of you, he asked that I read this letter from the First Lady and him.

To the Graduating Class of 2007:

Congratulations as you graduate from the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls and Boys.

America is a great country where people can dream big and reach their full potential through effort and determination. I encourage you to continue to set high goals, work hard in school, and help others in your community. Each of you has gifts to share, and you can use your talents and abilities to make our National stronger and better.

Mrs. Bush and I send our best wishes.

As the President said, ďeach of you has gifts to shareĒ and you should be proud of those gifts and all that youíve accomplished. Because of your hard work, Brighter Choice was #1 among public schools in Albany last year. And this year, for the second year in a row, was #1 in math, #1 in science, and you had the highest attendance rate in the state. Thatís incredible!

Now, I know a lot of you are getting excited for summer vacation and thinking about playing outside, going to the pool, maybe seeing the new Harry Potter.

But today is the day to think about everything youíve done here at Brighter Choice and the people who have helped you along the way.

So, first letís give a big round of applause to your amazing teachers. As Principal Jarvis-Cedeno put it, ďBrighter Choice wouldnít be number one without them.Ē

Letís also thank your parents and family members for all their hard work and support to make this day possible.

I know how proud all of you must be...

I also know what a difference your commitment has made - getting your kids to Saturday school, making sure they do their homework, deciding to send them to Brighter Choice in the first place.

Your efforts are 100 percent key to their achievement and continued success.

One of the main principles of the No Child Left Behind law is to provide parents with more information and options when it comes to their childís education.

Thatís why Secretary Spellings and I believe strongly in charter schools like Brighter Choice, which have done so much to empower parents and improve access to quality for all Americaís school children.

In a little over five years, the number of charter schools has doubled to 4,000...which means more and more kids have had the ability to get an education like the one youíre getting here.

Across America, charter schools are serving more than a million students. Like Brighter Choice, they all are creating innovative learning environments, breaking apart the myth that some kids just canít learn, and getting great results.

We must build on this progress. More and more children should have the opportunity to attend a school like Brighter Choice.

For all the graduates today, Brighter Choice has given each of you a strong foundation that will not only help you do well in middle school, but also high school, college, and in life.

And whether you want to be an astronaut, or a doctor, or a teacher, the next American Idol, President of the United States, education is a gift that will help you accomplish your dreams.

I wanted to leave you with a piece of advice, and the best advice I heard actually came from one of the parentís here today - Amelia Seel - whose daughter, Amirah, is graduating.

She said, ďitís important to know where you are and know where you want to be...then chart a course to get there.Ē

No matter what you want to be when you grow up, staying in school, working hard, and getting a good education is the course that will get you there.

Like I said at the beginning, Iíve heard great things about each of you, but that doesnít compare to the great things I expect from all of you in the years ahead.

Congratulations and best of luck in middle school!


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