President Obama says America's "primacy in the world" is at stake in the quest to substantially improve educational quality and global competitiveness.
Speaking to state governors gathered at the White House Monday, Obama said he will not "accept second place for the United States of America." He noted that it continues to lag behind other nations in critical areas, including high school math and science skills.
Obama applauded governors for developing "common academic standards" but said more can be done. For one thing, he said states will be asked to adopt new standards to better prepare the young for college-level math and science -- and will make that a condition for receiving certain federal assistance. Obama said the effort will also require better teaching and better curricula.
"Because too many students are not learning the basic skills needed to succeed in college or work while they are in high school," the White House said in a release Sunday, "the nation sacrifices more than $3.7 billion a year in lost productivity and remedial education costs."
The White House said the governors have been working on the president's Race to the Top program, which rewards school systems that raise standards and prove that through tougher student assessments.
At the same time, the White House said that too many states are churning out graduates who are unprepared either for college or career.
The White House took a swipe at George W. Bush-era education policies, declaring that "between 2005 and 2007, various states have lowered their standards in reading and math."
In addition to supporting ongoing state efforts, the White House said the president will commit an additional $350 million to the Race to the Top challenge to back "state-led partnerships to develop new, state-of-the art assessments aligned to college and career-ready standards."
According to the White House, the president's 2011 budget will call for the reauthorization of the 1994 version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which would require states to meet six tough standards to help high school graduates prepare for college or careers. The White House said schools need to focus on better teacher preparation, improved teaching and tougher student assessments.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was first passed in 1965 and has been routinely reauthorized every five years. Its last incarnation was former President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Under the measure, federal money is sent to the states to pay for teacher development, instructional materials, educational resources and promotion of parental involvement.