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  • Mr. Austin: Good afternoon.

  • Audience: Good afternoon.

  • Mr. Austin: My name is Matthew Austin.

  • I am an eighth grade honor student from the Howard

  • University Middle School of Mathematics and Science,

  • located here in Washington, D.C.

  • We love our school and we also love our teacher,

  • Ms. Kim Worthy.

  • She is here today and she was recently named the 2009 D.C.

  • Teacher of the Year.

  • (applause)

  • She inspires me to learn, to work hard,

  • and to stay focused on my education.

  • And now, I am very honored to introduce someone who inspires

  • school children all across America to work hard and to stay

  • in school and to be successful.

  • Please welcome the President of the United States,

  • Mr. Barack Obama.

  • (applause)

  • The President: Thank you.

  • (applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (applause)

  • Thank you so much.

  • (applause)

  • Please -- thank you.

  • Everybody have a seat.

  • Thank you.

  • Thank you for the outstanding introduction from Matthew.

  • And Matthew's teacher, you're doing obviously an outstanding

  • job -- although I understand Matthew's mom's also a teacher

  • who has also won awards for her outstanding work.

  • So the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

  • We are very proud of him.

  • Obviously I want to thank my wonderful Secretary of

  • Education, Arne Duncan, who has helped to lead us.

  • (applause)

  • I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here,

  • the governors who are in attendance.

  • And I want to give a special shout out to Chairman George

  • Miller of the Education Committee in the House,

  • who has just been a outstanding partner for reform.

  • Please give him a big round of applause.

  • (applause)

  • You know, from the moment I entered office,

  • my administration has worked to beat back this recession by

  • creating jobs and unfreezing credit markets,

  • extending unemployment insurance and health benefits to Americans

  • who are out of work.

  • But even as we've worked to end this immediate crisis,

  • we've also taken some historic measures to build a new

  • foundation for growth and prosperity that can help secure

  • our economic future for generations to come.

  • One pillar of this new foundation is health insurance

  • reform that can control deficits,

  • and reduce costs for families and businesses,

  • provide quality affordable care for every American.

  • Another pillar is energy reform that makes clean energy

  • profitable, that creates green jobs that can't be outsourced,

  • and frees America from the grip of foreign oil.

  • We're also working to enact financial reforms that will set

  • up firm rules of the road to help prevent an economic crisis

  • like the one we've just gone through from ever happening again.

  • But even if we do all of those things,

  • America will not succeed in the 21st century unless we do a far

  • better job of educating our sons and daughters,

  • unless every child is performing the way Matthew's performing.

  • In an economy where knowledge is the most valuable commodity a

  • person and a country have to offer,

  • the best jobs will go to the best educated --

  • whether they live in the United States or India or China.

  • In a world where countries that out-educate us today will

  • out-compete us tomorrow, the future belongs to the nation

  • that best educates its people.

  • Period.

  • We know this.

  • But we also know that today, our education system is falling short.

  • We've talked about it for decades but we know that we have

  • not made the progress we need to make.

  • The United States, a country that has always led the way in

  • innovation, is now being outpaced in math and science education.

  • African American, Latino students are lagging behind

  • white classmates in one subject after another --

  • an achievement gap that, by one estimate,

  • costs us hundreds of billions of dollars in wages that will not

  • be earned, jobs that will not be done,

  • and purchases that will not be made.

  • And most employers raise doubts about the qualifications of

  • future employees, rating high school graduates' basic skills

  • as only "fair" or "poor."

  • Of course, as I said before, we've talked about this problem for years.

  • For years, we've talked about bad statistics and an

  • achievement gap.

  • For years, we've talked about overcrowded classrooms and

  • crumbling schools and corridors of shame across this country.

  • We've talked these problems to death, year after year,

  • decade after decade, while doing all too little to solve them.

  • But thanks to Arne's leadership, thanks to George Miller's

  • leadership, thanks to all the dedicated Americans in

  • statehouses, and schoolhouses, communities across this country,

  • that's beginning to change.

  • We're beginning to break free from the partisanship and the

  • petty bickering that have stood in the way of progress for so long.

  • We're beginning to move past the stale debates about either more

  • money or more reform, because the fact is we need both.

  • We're beginning to offer every single American the best

  • education the world has to offer from the cradle to the

  • classroom, from college to careers.

  • In recent months, I've spoken about the different parts of

  • this strategy.

  • I've spoken about what we're doing to prepare community

  • college students to find a job when they graduate;

  • to make college and advanced training more affordable;

  • and to raise the bar in early learning programs.

  • Today, I want to talk about what we can do to raise the quality

  • of education from kindergarten through senior year.

  • Because improving education is central to rebuilding our

  • economy, we set aside over $4 billion in the Recovery Act to

  • promote improvements in schools.

  • This is one of the largest investments in education reform

  • in American history.

  • And rather than divvying it up and handing it out,

  • we are letting states and school districts compete for it.

  • That's how we can incentivize excellence and spur reform and

  • launch a race to the top in America's public schools.

  • That race starts today.

  • I'm issuing a challenge to our nation's governors,

  • to school boards and principals and teachers,

  • to businesses and non-for-profits,

  • to parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and

  • challenging standards and assessments;

  • if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom;

  • if you turn around failing schools --

  • your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only

  • help students outcompete workers around the world,

  • but let them fulfill their God-given potential.

  • This competition will not be based on politics or ideology or

  • the preferences of a particular interest group.

  • Instead, it will be based on a simple principle --

  • whether a state is ready to do what works.

  • We will use the best evidence available to determine whether a

  • state can meet a few key benchmarks for reform --

  • and states that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant.

  • Not every state will win and not every school district will be

  • happy with the results.

  • But America's children, America's economy,

  • and America itself will be better for it.

  • And one of the benchmarks we will use is whether states are

  • designing and enforcing higher and clearer standards and

  • assessments that prepare a student to graduate from college

  • and succeed in life.

  • Right now, some states like Massachusetts are setting high

  • standards, but many others are not.

  • Many others are low-balling expectations for students --

  • telling our kids they're prepared to move on to the next

  • grade even if they aren't; awarding diplomas even if a

  • graduate doesn't have the knowledge and skills to thrive

  • in our economy.

  • That's a recipe for economic decline, and it has to stop.

  • With the Race to the Top fund, we will reward states that come

  • together and adopt a common set of standards and assessments.

  • Now, let me be clear: This is not about the kind of testing

  • that has mushroomed under No Child Left Behind.

  • This is not about more tests.

  • It's not about teaching to the test.

  • And it's not about judging a teacher solely on the results of

  • a single test.

  • It is about finally getting testing right,

  • about developing thoughtful assessments that lead to better

  • results; assessments that don't simply measure whether students

  • can use a pencil to fill in a bubble,

  • but whether they possess basic knowledge and essential skills

  • like problem-solving and creative thinking,

  • creativity and entrepreneurship.

  • And already, 46 states are working to develop such standards.

  • I urge those 46 states to finish the job.

  • I urge the other four to get onboard.

  • (laughter)

  • One of the other benchmarks we'll be using in awarding Race

  • to the Top grants is whether outstanding teachers are being

  • placed in our classrooms.

  • From the moment a student enters a school,

  • the single most important factor in their success is the person

  • in front of the classroom.

  • Every one of us can point to a teacher who inspired us and in

  • some way shaped the course of our lives.

  • Great teachers are the bulwark of America.

  • They should be valued and they should be honored.

  • Few have worked harder to do that than our national union leaders.

  • Randi Weingarten is right here, and Dennis Van Roekel --

  • (applause)

  • -- are two union leaders who are here,

  • and I'm very pleased that they're with us today.

  • But if we're honest with ourselves we'll admit that in

  • too many places, we have no way --

  • at least no good way of distinguishing good teachers

  • from bad ones.

  • As Arne has pointed out in the past,

  • they have 300,000 teachers in California.

  • The top 10% are 30,000 of the best that are out there.

  • The bottom 10% are 30,000 of the worst out there.

  • The problem is, we have no way to tell which is which.

  • That's where data comes in.

  • Some places are keeping electronic records of how a

  • student does from one year to the next and how a class does in

  • any given year.

  • This helps students, parents, teachers, principals,

  • and school boards know what's working and what's not in the classroom.

  • You know, basketball coaches have a game tape for the team to

  • see what they did right and what they did wrong after a tough

  • series -- teachers and principals should have a way of

  • doing the same.

  • Now, I recognize there's a concern among some that a

  • teacher won't be judged fairly when we start linking students'

  • performance to the performance of their teachers.

  • And that's why we need to bring teachers into the process and

  • make sure their voices are heard.

  • (applause)

  • And that's why we need to make sure we use tests as just one

  • part of a broader evaluation of teachers' performance.

  • But let me be clear: Success should be judged by results,

  • and data is a powerful tool to determine results.

  • We can't ignore facts.

  • We can't ignore data.

  • That's why any state that makes it unlawful to link student

  • progress to teacher evaluations will have to change its ways if

  • it wants to compete for a grant.

  • That's why the Race to the Top grants will go to states that

  • use data effectively to reward effective teachers,

  • to support teachers who are struggling, and when necessary,

  • to replace teachers who aren't up to the job.

  • And we also need to reward states that are placing

  • outstanding teachers in schools and subjects --

  • like math and science -- where they're needed most.

  • That's one way to foster the next generation of math and

  • science teachers.

  • And by the way, everyone has a role to play in training these teachers.

  • So universities and nonprofit organizations can launch

  • programs like UTeach at UT Austin that allows aspiring

  • teachers to get a math or science degree and teaching

  • certificate at the same time.

  • And businesses can follow the example of Intel and Microsoft