- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

President Bush yesterday urged teachers to move swiftly to implement his newly enacted education-overhaul plan and told parents to "demand excellence" from their schools.
"As parents, you're entitled to expect a lot from schools and teachers. And schools and teachers are entitled to expect some things from you, as well," the president told a group of 3,000 educators and parents gathered at Constitution Hall.
Mr. Bush said the annual report cards on school performance which will reveal whether teachers are performing the duties for which they are being paid are effective only if parents use the information.
"Parents need to pay attention to school performance. They should insist on results. And, when necessary, they must be strong advocates for change. They should offer praise when they can and pressure when it's called for," he said to sustained applause.
Just one day after signing the landmark No Child Left Behind Act which requires public school students in grades three through eight to be tested annually in math and reading the president moved quickly to ensure the proposal succeeds.
"This nation has waited many years for major reform in education. We've now achieved it. And we're wasting no time in implementing it," he said.
While he urged parents to demand performance, he had some stern words for them as well.
"Every child should come to school ready to learn. Good manners and respect for teachers are learned at home. Good study habits are reinforced by mothers and fathers who are willing to switch off the TV set and turn off video games to make sure the homework gets done."
Mr. Bush, the architect of the legislation, is now somewhat vulnerable, and he appeared to know it yesterday. While the education law provides billions of dollars to bolster student achievement, the president's plan will work only if parents work with and demand more from local and state education officials.
"As a result of this bill, local officials now have unprecedented flexibility to decide where to spend money and target reforms," he said to applause. "Now much of the real work begins. Now we must turn our principles into progress, and progress into excellence, and excellence into the lives of hope and achievement."
Mr. Bush also said teachers will have to carry a large part of the load.
"All who have chosen the noble profession of teaching should know this: We are counting on your energy and your imagination to make these reforms real for America's children. You have our confidence, and you'll have our support," he said.
But the law also empowers teachers, Mr. Bush said.
"The law gives incentives to hire and train teachers, and it backs up teachers who impose reasonable discipline in their classrooms. We want teachers in charge of their classrooms, not plaintiff's attorneys," the president said to applause.
As he did on a whirlwind three-state tour Tuesday, Mr. Bush was careful to spread the credit among congressional leaders especially liberal Democrats from the House and Senate.
"We have shown what is possible in Washington, D.C. We have shown that if you put the nation's interests ahead of political party, you can achieve mighty, mighty reform," said the president, flanked by bill sponsors Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; Rep. George Miller, California Democrat; and Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.
"I've enjoyed working with these two Democrats. They are a credit to their party but, more importantly, a credit to our country," he said. "Republicans and Democrats share the same basic commitments on education."

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