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First Lady Leaves None Behind

Ohanian Comment: What do you suppose the paper headline writer means?

BEAVERTON — First lady Laura Bush praised teachers at an Oregon school Wednesday for increasing students’ test scores though a reading program of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Bush appeared briefly at William Walker Elementary School in Beaverton to promote the education-reform law crafted by her husband’s administration and passed by Congress in 2001. She said that frequent assessments are needed to identify poor readers.

“We’d never go to our doctor and say, ‘You can’t run tests on me.’ It’s the same way with schools,” she told several teachers assembled to talk about the school’s progress with a federal Reading First grant.

In a news conference later, Bush also responded to criticism that the president hasn’t provided enough money to schools to meet the goals of the law.

“There’s more money associated with the No Child Left Behind act than there’s ever been before in any education bill,” Bush said, adding that her husband has proposed spending more education money in the 2005 federal budget. “There is money that these school districts can get, and like I said before, it does require some planning and organization on the part of the school districts to apply for these funds.”

The first lady’s visit is one of several likely high-level presidential campaign stops in Oregon — considered a swing state by both sides. Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, rallied voters in Portland earlier this week.

Democrats responded quickly to the first lady’s visit.

“George Bush has failed to provide Oregon with the resources it needs to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act,” Kerry Spokeswoman Laura Capps said Wednesday. “When it comes to our children, the president needs to keep his word and should be held accountable when he doesn’t.”

Laura Bush’s promotion of the No Child Left Behind law is part of an effort to spread word about the president’s domestic policies. After leaving Oregon, she flew to Burbank, Calif., to appear on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.

After reading with a class of first- and second-graders about Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, Bush met with the school’s principal and several teachers. They told her about the school’s first year with the Reading First initiative, a federal grant program. It provides for a reading coach, teacher training, student testing and long blocks of time for reading.

Principal Barbara Evans said that last year, 60 percent of the students were meeting or exceeding federal reading standards. After the Reading First program, 73 percent now meet the standards.

“I fully expect that as we become more proficient in these practices that our percentages will continue to increase, thus allowing us to reach our goals of no child left behind,” Evans told the first lady.

Bush said the teachers confirmed the need for frequent, short testing to create fluent readers.

“It’s not anything punitive, but instead it’s a way to know problems that students have so school districts and teachers and principals can address those problems,” she said.

The front-line experts on testing, fourth-graders Andrea Vallejo, Winnie Kong and Siouzann Khanati, stood outside in a tidy line, waiting to send the first lady off in her black SUV.

“(The tests) are kind of difficult at first but once you get to know it, it gets easier and easier,” Winnie said.

The girls agreed that they want to be like their classmate Peter, who gets perfect scores on his tests. Before the excitement Wednesday, the girls had a chance to do a little research on the president’s wife.

“We learned that she goes to a lot of schools and her husband does, too,” Andrea said, craning her neck to see if Laura Bush was coming yet.

“She helps George W. Bush,” Siouzann said.

“He helps a lot of people and he’s a very, very great president,” Winnie said.

Then the first lady came outside and slowly walked down the line of children, shaking their little hands. She received a bouquet and thanked the students for allowing her to visit.

Andrea and Winnie hopped up and down and hugged each other.

— Tara McLain
Statesman Journal


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