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Bush Lauds States for "Embracing Their Marching Orders"

Ohanian Comment: Rod Paige calls it a "watershed moment"; I call it a drainage ditch. Does anybody wonder what business the President has giving states "their marching orders?" The press attitude seems to be, "Oh well, it's only public schools. They need a good beating-up-on.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush lauded the states on Tuesday for embracing their marching orders: increase school testing, improve teaching and raise achievement like never before.

Bush chose a sunny Rose Garden setting to announce his administration's approval of tougher school accountability plans for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

More broadly, the ceremony put a spotlight back on his original domestic priority, the landmark overhaul of elementary and secondary education known as the No Child Left Behind law.

"The era of low expectations and low standards is ending," Bush said.

Bush and Congress ordered the measures through the No Child Left Behind law. It won bipartisan backing in 2001, but support is eroding as Democrats, including presidential contenders, say Bush has broken his promise to provide enough funds for the mandates.

Approval of the state plans was expected this month, as the submission of the plans was mandated by the end of January. Bush and other Republicans said both steps were meaningful mileposts, the kind states used to ignore.

"This is more than just a significant moment," said Education Secretary Rod Paige. "This is a watershed moment."

Education is traditionally a matter for state and local governments, which pick up about 90 percent of the cost. But the Bush-backed law created a more forceful federal role, as national leaders grew weary of stagnant test scores and lower achievement among minorities.

Accountability plans show how states will chart "adequate yearly progress" for a school's population and for subgroups, such as minorities and students who speak little English. States choose their tests and standards.

"We're worried about how anyone is going to make a national comparison because the plans are so different," said Terri Schwartzbeck, a policy analyst for the American Association of School Administrators. "Some states are going to have to play by harder rules."

Federal intervention grows by the year for schools that receive federal low-income aid but don't improve. The consequences include letting students transfer to another school in the district, replacing school staff and -- after five years of school failure -- letting the state take over.

"Some of those schools will undoubtedly have to make tough choices. That's OK," Bush said. "Remember what's at stake: When a student passes from grade to grade without knowing how to read and write, add and subtract, the damage can last a lifetime."

Overall, the goal is to get every child proficient in math and reading by 2013-14. By 2005-06, core classes must have a "highly qualified" teacher and states must provide more testing.

— Associated Press
Bush OKs tougher school plan
Houston Chronicle
June 11, 2003


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