WASHINGTON – Margaret Spellings (search) said Monday her role as a parent of school-age children will help guide her views in her new job as secretary of education.
"In carrying out my duties to the American people, I will be carrying out my duties as a mom," Spellings said in her first public comments as secretary. "And there is none more important than to provide a quality education to our children."
With President Bush at her side and much of her family in attendance, Spellings was sworn in by White House chief of staff Andy Card as the eighth education secretary. The moment was ceremonial, as Spellings had already taken the oath of office from Card on Inauguration Day.
Spellings reaffirmed she plans to "stay the course" with No Child Left Behind (search), the aggressive education law she helped craft as Bush's domestic policy adviser. The law demands yearly progress among all groups of students and penalizes many schools that fall short.
Spellings, 47, has two school-age daughters and two older stepsons. She has become a confidante to Bush over the last decade, both in his jobs as Texas governor and as president.
"For more than 10 years she's been right down the hall or by my side, and now I look forward to having her take her seat in the Cabinet Room," Bush told an audience of about 250 people at the Education Department (search). It was his first stop at the agency in four years.
Spellings has pledged to Senate leaders that she will address the "horror stories" that some schools say they've faced in enforcing the federal education law. On Monday, she focused on sticking with the law and expanding its reach in high schools.
"When you signed No Child Left Behind into law three years ago, it was more than an act -- it was an attitude," Spellings told Bush. "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 asking children to read and do math at grade level or better is not too much to ask."
Bush wants Congress to add two more years of state testing in the high school grades.
"Today only about 68 out of every 100 students entering our public high schools ever make it to graduation four years later," Bush said. "Margaret understands, as do I, that is unacceptable."
Spellings replaced Rod Paige, starting just as questions mount about whether the department has inappropriately spent public money to promote Bush's agenda.
"I pledge to run an open, honest and accessible department -- one that operates with integrity at all levels," she said.