Page 2 of 5   <       >

President Obama Discusses New 'Race to the Top' Program

How can you be sure -- what do you say to that, and how can you be sure that this money is going to actually produce the results that you hope?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the proof of the pudding is, number one, in the quality of the competition that's been set up. I think if you take a look at the requirements for obtaining these grants, it is based on the very best evidence about what works. Arne Duncan has gone through and talked to every educational expert out there, and they have arrived at a consensus that if you're improving teacher quality, you're combining that with high standards, you've got strong data to back it up, you're focusing on low-performing schools and not just the upper tier -- that all those things in combination produce results.

And so this is a classic example, I think, of evidence-based policymaking. It's not based on politics; it's not based on who's got more clout; it's not based on what certain constituency groups are looking for; but it's based on what works. Now, what we're also doing, though, is we're saying this is voluntary. If there are states that just don't want to go in this direction, that's their prerogative.

Q And you're willing, if it turns out that a politically important state like Ohio or California, if it turns out that they're ones that don't get the money, that's -- politics won't come into play?

THE PRESIDENT: Politics won't come into play. And we've been very clear about that. That's part of the problem in the educational debate, at every level, for decades now, is politics always comes into play and kids end up being left out.

Now, keep in mind that we're also trying to encourage consensus building. So, for example, we're challenging school districts and teachers unions to use the collective bargaining process as a catalyst for reform as opposed to an impediment for reform. And when you've got teachers, school administrators, parents, politicians all thinking in terms of what actually will help our kids become -- or possess the kind of skills that they need in order to compete in the 21st century economy, then we're confident that we're going to see improvement.

It may not be as fast as we would like. And the one thing that I think is always important is to say that improving the quality of schools and the student achievement is a long, deliberate process.

And one of the things we want to get out of is this notion that somehow one law, one program, magically is going to change things.

What happens then is people get disappointed, they scrap it, and they try a whole new thing. What we want to do is just keep on building on the evidence of what works.

Q Now, you just mentioned collective bargaining a second ago

-- if we could talk more about teacher pay. You've made clear that teacher pay should not be dependent on a single standardized test score, even though you're pushing for steps toward performance pay.

What do you say to teachers who believe it's unfair to be judged or paid, even in part, on the test scores of students who come to school with so many disadvantages?

<       2              >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company