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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,