March 13th, 2010
10:35 AM ET
12 years ago

Obama focuses on education reform in weekly address

Washington (CNN) - President Obama used his latest Internet and radio address to highlight his administration's plans for education reform.

(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address
March 13, 2010

Lost in the news of the week was a headline that ought to be a source of concern for every American. It said, “Many Nations Passing U.S. in Education.” Now, debates in Washington tend to be consumed with the politics of the moment: who’s up in the daily polls; whose party stands to gain in November. But what matters to you – what matters to our country – is not what happens in the next election, but what we do to lift up the next generation. And the fact is, there are few issues that speak more directly to our long term success as a nation than issues concerning the education we provide to our children.

Our prosperity in the 20th century was fueled by an education system that helped grow the middle class and unleash the talents of our people more fully and widely than at any time in our history. We built schools and focused on the teaching of math and science. We helped a generation of veterans go to college through the GI Bill. We led the globe in producing college graduates, and in turn we led in producing ground-breaking technologies and scientific discoveries that lifted living standards and set us apart as the world’s engine of innovation.

Of course, other nations recognize this, and are looking to gain an edge in the global marketplace by investing in better schools, supporting teachers, and committing to clear standards that will produce graduates with more skills. Our competitors understand that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Yet, too often we have failed to make inroads in reforming and strengthening our public education system – the debate mired in worn arguments hurled across entrenched divides.

As a result, over the last few decades, we’ve lost ground. One assessment shows American fifteen year olds no longer even near the top in math and science when compared to their peers around the world. As referenced in the news report I mentioned, we’ve now fallen behind most wealthy countries in our high school graduation rates. And while we once led the world in the proportion of college graduates we produced, today we no longer do.

Not only does that risk our leadership as a nation, it consigns millions of Americans to a lesser future. For we know that the level of education a person attains is increasingly a prerequisite for success and a predictor of the income that person will earn throughout his or her life. Beyond the economic statistics is a less tangible but no less painful reality: unless we take action – unless we step up – there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential.

I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America. That’s why we’re engaged in a historic effort to redeem and improve our public schools: to raise the expectations for our students and for ourselves, to recognize and reward excellence, to improve performance in troubled schools, and to give our kids and our country the best chance to succeed in a changing world.

Under the leadership of an outstanding Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, we launched a Race to the Top, through which states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards, by rewarding good teaching, by supporting the development of better assessments to measure results, and by emphasizing math and science to help prepare children for college and careers.

And on Monday, my administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act to overhaul No Child Left Behind. What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar – but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it.

Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down. For the majority of schools that fall in between – schools that do well but could do better – we will encourage continuous improvement to help keep our young people on track for a bright future: prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. And because the most important factor in a child’s success is the person standing at the front of the classroom, we will better prepare teachers, support teachers, and encourage teachers to stay in the field. In short, we’ll treat the people who educate our sons and daughters like the professionals they are.

Through this plan we are setting an ambitious goal: all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career – no matter who you are or where you come from. Achieving this goal will be difficult. It will take time. And it will require the skills, talents, and dedication of many: principals, teachers, parents, students. But this effort is essential for our children and for our country. And while there will always be those cynics who claim it can’t be done, at our best, we know that America has always risen to the challenges that we’ve faced. This challenge is no different.

As a nation, we are engaged in many important endeavors: improving the economy, reforming the health care system, encouraging innovation in energy and other growth industries of the 21st century. But our success in these efforts – and our success in the future as a people – will ultimately depend on what happens long before an entrepreneur opens his doors, or a nurse walks the rounds, or a scientist steps into her laboratory. Our future is determined each and every day, when our children enter the classroom, ready to learn and brimming with promise.

It’s that promise we must help them fulfill. Thank you.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. New Age Independant

    Hey Obama, how about focusing on JOBS!

    March 13, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  2. Mike in MN

    Obama mentions early in his speech that many are more consumed by who is up or down in the polls or who is going to win in the next elections than they are interested in addressing our problems.
    Well to a majority of voters the greatest problem and threat to our nation is Obama and his out of control spending agenda. A bankrupt America won't have any money to spend on any big or small government program and that is exactly where Obama is leading us. So for myself and a majority of voters, Obama and his agenda are the nations biggest problem. The solution is to stop him in November by voting the Democrats out of power in Congress and taking our nations check book and credit card away from him. The next step is to remove this sorry excuse for a president from office in 2012.

    March 13, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Stallion

    Obama.....You are so full of it! You are only adept at making promises.....not keeping them. You do not even live up to the standards you expect of others. You should resign resign sir.

    March 13, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Willy Brown

    how about JOBS FIRST!

    March 13, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Denna

    Thank you, Mr. President. We just had a charter school here in Chicago whose entire senior class, all young black men, accepted at 4-year colleges. That is the kind of teaching program that should be installed at all of the schools here in America. This school has an 8-hour class day with emphasis on math, science and English. These young men not only learned these subjects, they also learned how to endure what are normal workday hours. We cannot afford to slip behind if we want to remain a viable nation.

    March 13, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Frank P

    Idiot, we need jobs, jobs, jobs! Stop talking about everything else and talk about jobs! What an empty suite you really are; Hillary was 100% right on how she judged you during the elections! Talk, talk, talk and no action and certainly no substance!

    March 13, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. aware

    When public schools no longer indoctrinate students with an obfuscating, progressive agenda our children, ready to learn and brimming with promise, will bring creative hope to the 21st century. 🙂

    March 13, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |

    Education or indrocttination in the down throw of America. Wake up america,we are at the threshold of anarchy.

    March 13, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    Thank goodness. We really can't afford to get much dumber, to put it bluntly.

    I've raised 2 kids, and the one thing I noticed as they made their way through the public school system here in GA is that they never learned how to learn. They were told how to think. Everything done in rote, like zombies. The curriculum is based on testing; in other words teachers taught to the tests. It's like putting blinders on a horse. The kids don't get to see all there is to see – the what ifs.

    I hope we can turn it around, because we can't afford to fall any further behind.

    March 13, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. stevegee

    All Obama wants to do is indoctrinate our kids with his Marxist ideas - no thanks!

    In addition, the Department of Education has already cost us billions upon billions of wasted taxpayer money - it should be abolished!

    March 13, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. jules sand-perkins

    The children NEED to be left behind: they'd get the idea if we didn't tell them that their failure was the teachers' fault.
    Our degrees no longer mean anything. I laugh when some young person says, "hello, I'm Dr. Blank," unless he's an MD, and, you know, even then...

    March 13, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |