Secretary of Education Rod Paige has a hard message regarding "hard-to-teach kids." Speaking before a group of teachers and administrators at Thompson Elementary School in Aldine, Texas last Friday, Paige decried the temptation of educators in high need districts to "fall victim to excuses." While Paige emphasized the administration's financial commitment to student success--presenting Texas Education Agency Commissioner Felipe Alanis a $532 million check that represents Texas's share for the first six years of President Bush's Reading First Initiative--he also exhorted the audience of teachers to demand excellence from every student and maintained that the country had the right to demand excellence from every school district. "You can get away with talking about at-risk characteristics [and] some are comfortable spouting slogans and excuses." Paige further went on to insist that "a big urban school system can work if it's managed right."