When reformers pushed for tests that could show which curricula worked best, educrats denounced testing. If children steeped in phonics scored well on reading tests, they were not impressed -- it was because the children were brainwashed, not literate. And if whole-language learners scored poorly, well, it was because they were so creative.
When Bush and company demanded accountability, they complained that standards would hurt poor children -- as if under-educating poor and minority students didn't hurt poor and minority kids.
The educrat lobby in California opposed the switch from bilingual education to English immersion. Fortunately, California voters, not educrats, had an opportunity to switch to English immersion programs, and now more immigrant children have mastered English.
Over time, classroom teachers have seen their students make progress. Many have come to see the wisdom in emphasizing phonics -- it may be boring for teachers, but it helps kids learn to read better.
Bush packaged his approach under his promise to fight "the soft bigotry of low expectations." For years, educators blamed parents, demographics, money -- you name it -- for poor student performance.
Bush didn't want to hear the excuses -- and his Texas swagger paid off. As Hoover Institution fellow and sometime Bush adviser Bill Evers noted, "There's no doubt that high expectations and trying to hold the system accountable from top to the bottom is having an overall positive effect."
And so the educrats are left with weak criticisms. They complain that No Child Left Behind is underfunded -- even as Bush budgets money for the Department of Education. They argue that students have no motivation to apply themselves when they take tests -- and still the NAEP numbers are up. They note that NAEP high-school scores are flat without acknowledging that they opposed reforms that are helping more of today's 9-year-olds read.