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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

And good morning, I'm John Ydstie.

The two leading Democratic presidential contenders were on the road yesterday: Senator Barack Obama was on a bus tour in New Hampshire; Senator Hillary Clinton was in Iowa, where a new poll shows her falling slightly behind Obama as the January 3rd caucuses approach.

We have two reporters on the story. We begin with Don Gonyea, who's with Barack Obama.

DON GONYEA: Senator Obama stood onstage in a small upstairs auditorium at Manchester Public High School yesterday to lay out an ambitious $10 billion a year plan to improve K-12 education, especially in high poverty and high minority neighborhoods, and to recruit more teachers at better pay.

But the senator also came to criticize No Child Left Behind education reforms of the Bush administration. Obama said that that approach had led to too much focus on testing designed to gauge whether a school was succeeding or failing.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): And by the way, don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him or her to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. OBAMA: Don't tell us that these tests have come at the expense of music or art. We are educating the whole child; we're not educating a child to take a test.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: Senator Obama used that same topic to criticize the two other leading Democratic presidential hopefuls. He noted that Senator Clinton and former Senator John Edwards each voted for No Child Left Behind, and he accused them of not supporting additional legislation that would have forced full funding of the program.

Sen. OBAMA: Senator Edwards and Senator Clinton passed on that chance, and I believe that was a serious mistake.

GONYEA: It was Senator Obama's first event of the day. While it was underway, snow began to fall outside, quickly depositing close to an inch on the ground. The candidate, then the press, filed into buses for the start of a slushy, three-city tour for town hall meetings that would bring more talk of Senator Clinton.

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