- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

President Obama on Tuesday will call for education improvements that build on rather than replace President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education bill, pushing for better pay for good teachers and calling on states to develop more “rigorous” real-world standards and tests.

Mr. Obama will also call for expanding successful charter schools and will push schools to get better data tools so they can measure who’s doing well and who needs more help, two senior administration officials said in previewing a speech the president will deliver to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative conference.

It’s part of a new mantra the Obama administration has of “cradle to career” education.

The officials, speaking on condition they not be named as they previewed the speech, said Mr. Obama will lay out broad goals and initiatives and will leave much of the grunt work to states, which control education. Still, he will call for a bigger federal financial commitment to paying good teachers and will call for a central clearinghouse to spread best practices to districts nationwide.

In his address to Congress last month Mr. Obama put education as one of three issues he said the country must tackle, along with health care and global warming, even as it struggles to address a slumping economy.

“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite,” he said. “That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.”

President Bush in his first year in office signed No Child Left Behind, which called for states to set standards and required regular testing to measure students’ and schools performance.

No Child Left Behind has met with resistance on both the right and the left, but does have strong backing from particular groups, including many Hispanic rights groups who argue the testing has helped identify schools that need more assistance.

The No Child bill is due for reauthorization later this year, but the officials briefing reporters said Mr. Obama will propose funding some of the remedial programs called for in that bill but is not talking about changes to that measure right now.

“The president tomorrow is not calling for specific amendments to NCLB — he’s issuing a challenge to states to raise their standards and build out data systems to track student progress,” one of the officials said.

In his address to Congress last month Mr. Obama mentioned cutting education programs that don’t work, though it was unclear whether he would give more details on that in his speech.

The White House said Mr. Obama will push for programs to help children younger than 5 prepare for school. And in his budget outline last month the president also outlined a plan to make Pell grants for low-income college students an entitlement program, putting it beyond the yearly scrutiny of congressional appropriators.