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U.S. education secretary tours South Central elementary school

LOS ANGELES (AP) – U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige toured a South Central elementary school Monday to promote President Bush’s education plan.

Paige’s stop at South Park Elementary, chosen because its successful early reading program exemplifies an approach Bush thinks should be taken nationwide, was one of a series of school visits Paige is making to promote the administration’s agenda.

Bush’s plan includes a five-year, $5 billion program to help children across the country learn to read by third grade. Two versions of Bush’s education legislation, both including the reading plan, are making their way through Congress.



”In his plain-spoken way, the president simply adopted some commonsense principles and asked us to do it,” Paige told a group of teachers, administrators and local officials gathered in the brightly decorated school library. ”He knows that if young students can’t read the rest of it’s not going to have much hope.”

The reading program used at South Park and throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District is known as ”Open Court” and involves early focus on phonetic awareness with the goal of teaching students to read by third grade.



South Park, a school with about 1,200 students in a low-income neighborhood, has seen its test scores rise dramatically since instituting the program about four years ago, said Felecia Johnson, a reading coach at the school.

Though Bush does not promote any specific reading program, ”Open Court” is an example of the research-based approach he supports, said Paige’s spokeswoman, Lindsey Kozberg.

First lady Laura Bush paid a visit to an elementary school in San Fernando last week in another push for Bush’s education plan.

Before speaking to adults at the school, Paige dropped in on two classes, accompanied by Mayor Richard Riordan, Superintendent Roy Romer, School Board President Genethia Hayes and other officials.

In a first-grade classroom, students raised their hands and asked questions like ”Where does George Bush live?”

”In a big white house,” Paige replied.

Paige read to a group from a book called ”The Brand New Kid,” by NBC ”Today” show co-host Katie Couric. The book teaches the lesson that children should accept new kids no matter how they look.

Riordan, who has made education a top priority of his administration, bounded in and out of classrooms chirping ”Hi kids!” and ”Bye kids!” and told one little girl she was beautiful.

The students said they enjoyed the visit from Paige and the other officials.

”Well, they’re nice, and they’re presidents, right? So they might know everything,” said Kesley Green, 6, a first-grader.

”I think it was great and it was a lot of people and I was happy,” said Kevin Mays, 7, also in first grade.


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