President Bush starts the new year campaigning on some of the domestic programs he hopes will help him win re-election. In his weekly radio address to the nation, Mr. Bush said his education reforms have raised test scores in math and reading.
President Bush said the changes have put more children on the path to success in school and in life. He said the biggest changes in education in a generation are working.
"We expect schools to do their job, and we're helping them to do their job," he said. "So there's no excuse for failure. When we set a high standard, we are showing our belief in the capacities of every child."
The so-called No Child Left Behind reforms require states to hold every public school accountable for student achievement. If test scores do not measure up, the plan allows parents to move their children to better-performing schools, and provides money for tutoring.
"We will no longer write off some children as hopeless," said President Bush. "We will no longer accept or excuse schools that do not effectively teach the basics. We will insist on high standards and accountability, because we believe that every school should teach and every child can learn."
Critics say the president's reforms rely too much on standardized tests and not enough on individual needs. They say that forces teachers to focus on material they know will be on the test, instead of offering a broader view of the subject.
There is not yet enough money in the plan to meet all demands for tutoring, and switching schools often depends on better schools having enough space to accept new students.
In the weekly Democratic radio address, New York Congressman Tim Bishop said the president must increase school funding. "Improving education is an American priority," he said. "But last year, it was left under-funded by more than $8 billion. This gap has placed a great burden on our educators and local school taxes."
Democrats say the federal grading system is unfair in some cases, because it requires yearly progress from every subgroup of students, including those with disabilities, or those who speak English as a second language.
President Bush said it is not unfair to hold all students to the same standards. "Our reforms insist on high standards, because we know every child can learn," he said. "Our reforms call for testing because the worst discrimination is to ignore a school's failure to teach every child. And our reforms identify underperforming schools, because we need to direct our help to the schools that need it most."
Education and health care will be the domestic cornerstones of the president's push for re-election. In the coming week, he will visit the states of Missouri and Tennessee to discuss education reform, and raise more money for the campaign.