“We can’t spend our way out of it. I think that when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down,” said Obama.
Obama said his administration’s “reform agenda” includes increasing standards, finding and encouraging the best teachers, decreasing bureaucracy and deploying financial resources effectively. Teachers who fail to live up to expectations need to be given a chance to improve, he said, while those who do not should move on.
In answer to a question from Cincinnati sixth graders, Obama said lengthening the school year would be “money well spent.”
The president said he wants to work with teachers’ unions, and he embraced the role of defending their members. But he said unions cannot and should not defend a status quo in which one-third of children are dropping out. He urged them not to be resistant to change, particularly in schools which he said have become “dropout factories.”
“The vast majority of teachers want to do a good job … We have to be able to identify teachers who are doing well,” the president said. “Teachers who are not doing well, we have to give them the support and the training to do well. And ultimately, if some teachers are not doing a good job, they’ve gotta go.”
Training 10,000 new math and science teachers will be a priority for the administration, the president said.
Asked whether any D.C. public schools measure up to his children’s private school, Obama replied, “I’ll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now.”
There are a few D.C. public schools just as good as Sidwell, where the Obama girls are enrolled, writes Jay Mathews. Outvoted by his family, Mathews sent his own daughter to Sidwell.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be interviewed on Friday. Post your questions for Duncan here.