- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

Margaret Spellings was sworn in yesterday as secretary of education, becoming the first mother with school-age children to hold the Cabinet post since its creation 25 years ago.

Mrs. Spellings pledged during the ceremony in the U.S. Education Department auditorium to “stay the course” to improve learning and continue closing “the pernicious achievement gap” between white and minority children. President Bush, first lady Laura Bush and members of Mrs. Spellings’ family were in attendance.

“At the same time, we must work to close another gap, the skills gap, faced by our high-school graduates. We must introduce the reforms of No Child Left Behind to our high schools so that diplomas become tickets to success in the 21st century,” said the 47-year-old former chief White House domestic-policy adviser.

Mr. Bush, whose visit to the department was the first in his presidency, also emphasized: “There is still more work to be done … . We will maintain the high standards of No Child Left Behind. We will extend those high standards and accountability to America’s public high schools.”

The president’s plan calls for spending an additional $1.5 billion a year for remedial reading programs for ninth-graders and required reading and mathematics tests in ninth, 10th, and 11th grades.

“Today, only about 60 out of every 100 students entering our public high schools ever make it to graduation four years later,” Mr. Bush said. “Margaret understands, as I do, that is unacceptable. We’re committed to ensuring that every high-school student succeeds and leaves with the skills he or she needs to succeed in college or the workplace.”

Mrs. Spelling praised teachers, principals and school administrators across the country for raising reading and math achievement of elementary- and middle-school students, particularly among disadvantaged and minority children.

“Mr. President, your passion for education has become our policy. Your belief that every child can learn has become our mission,” she said.

“When you signed No Child Left Behind into law three years ago, it was more than an act, it was an attitude that says it’s right to measure our children’s progress from year to year so we can help them before it’s too late; an attitude that says expecting students to read and do math at grade level or better is not too much to ask.

“We’ve learned a new equation — accountability plus high expectations plus resources equals results,” she said. “We must stay the course.”

Underscoring a bipartisan commitment to further educational improvement, congressional leaders from both parties attended the swearing in, with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts representing Democrats.

Six other members of Mr. Bush’s administration, including Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten and White House political director Karl Rove, also attended the ceremony.

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