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Bush signs education bill into law

Bipartisan plan will require new reading and math tests

SHARE Bush signs education bill into law

HAMILTON, Ohio — President Bush, acting Tuesday on his No. 1 domestic priority, signed into law a sweeping education bill that will require new reading and math tests, seek to close the education gap between rich and poor students and raise teacher standards.

"As of this hour, America's schools will be on a new path of reform and a new path of results," Bush said to an audience of hundreds at Hamilton High School, west of Cincinnati. "From this day forward, all students will have a better chance to learn, to excel and to live out their dreams."

Though he spoke at length about the details of the bill, and articulated his plan to get all students reading by third grade, Bush joked of the bill, "I don't intend to read it all. It's not exactly light reading." But, he said, it contained some very important principles, chief among them accountability safeguards for students, teachers and schools.

Above him hung a sign bearing his campaign slogan on education, "No child left behind." Eager to showcase the bipartisan achievement on a campaign promise, the bill signing opened a three-state victory tour. A brass band played Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate" — twice — as Bush was arriving.

Bush waited three weeks to sign the bill and, seeking maximum exposure on an issue of rare agreement between Republicans and Democrats, was taking his roadshow to the states of lawmakers who led the yearlong negotiations on the bill.

"Most bills are signed at the White House. I decided to sign this bill in one of the most important places in America — a public school," Bush said.

In a 12-hour, 1,600-mile swing, the president signed the bill in Ohio, home of GOP Rep. John Boehner; gave an education speech in New Hampshire, the home state of GOP Sen. Judd Gregg; and toured a school in Massachusetts, home to Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. The fourth principal sponsor, Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, was traveling with Bush throughout the day. Bush visited California on Saturday.

Under the bill passed last month, a school in which scores failed to improve over six years could be restaffed.

Schools must raise the percentage of students proficient in reading and math and reach 100 percent within 12 years. Schools also must close gaps in scores between wealthy and poor students and white and minority students.

The bill requires states to ensure that within four years all teachers are qualified to teach in their subject areas.

Schools also must develop annual "report cards" that show their standardized test scores compared with both local and state schools.

"This is such a giant leap forward — it is actually a cultural shift, a different way of doing business," Education Secretary Rod Paige said in an interview.

"It goes further than anything in the past in terms of demanding accountability from states, school districts, individual schools and individual teachers and principals," Paige said. "No longer can they hide, no longer can their results be hidden."