Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bush Loyalist Fights Foes of ‘No Child’ Law

Published: June 12, 2008

NEWPORT, Ky. — Margaret Spellings is not running for office — at least, not yet. But in the waning days of the Bush presidency, she is running one last campaign.

On a cold and soggy morning in March, Ms. Spellings, the relentlessly cheery and sometimes sassy United States secretary of education, turned up here, at a little brick elementary school across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. She had been on the road for months, promoting President Bush’s beleaguered education initiative, No Child Left Behind, delivering one sales pitch after another.

“I’m pretty sure that the new president, whoever it is, will not show up and work on George Bush’s domestic achievement on Day 1,” she told a group of civic leaders and educators, promising to do “everything in my power” to improve the law before the White House changes hands.

For Ms. Spellings, a longtime and exceedingly loyal member of the Bush inner circle, it was a startling, if tacit, admission that the president’s education legacy is in danger. No Child Left Behind — the signature domestic achievement, beyond tax cuts, of the entire Bush presidency — has changed the lives of millions of American students, parents, teachers and school administrators. Yet its future is in grave doubt.

Adopted by Congress on a wave of bipartisan unity that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the law imposed unprecedented testing requirements and tough expectations on the nation’s nearly 99,000 public schools. But despite rising test scores, there is no hard-and-fast evidence, most experts say, that it is actually improving student achievement.

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