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Obama marks election anniversary by talking education at Wisconsin school

President Barack Obama is urging states to get their education policies in line with his administration's priorities. And he has an economic incentive for them to do so: $5 billion in grants known as 'Race to the Top.' (Nov. 4)

He spoke without particular fervor or joking asides. He stumbled over a phrase or two. He lectured teachers, students and parents on the need to "step up their games" if the United States wants to compete with India and China in the global economy. It was Obama as scold in chief.

But late in his speech he seemed to exhale, and he strayed from the script to open a rare and fleetingly brief window on his life in the White House during this past year.

He rarely improvises behind the lectern, and even noted that he was doing so as he began the digression.

"Malia and Sasha are just wonderful kids," Obama said. "And Michelle is a wonderful mother."

But he noted that his daughters, like all other kids, "at times want to slack off" and prefer "a computer game to hitting the books."

He told a story of Malia, his sixth-grader, who came home recently with a 73 percent score on a science test. A few years earlier, she had scored an 80 percent on a test, and Obama made clear that he expected more.

This time, she was unhappy with her performance without any prodding, and she laid out a plan to improve her study habits for the next test.

On Tuesday night, Obama told the audience now raptly focused on him, she came home with a 95. There was a burst of applause. He smiled, and paused.

He was a long way from Washington, talking about his kids to kids.

"She told me, 'I just like having knowledge,' " Obama said. "What had happened is that now she wanted it more than us."

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