"We are tired of arguments between the left and the right, between reformers and teachers unions," he said. "We want to find out what works."
Under former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation, 11 states lowered their standards for students in math, Mr. Obama said, signaling that the law created the wrong incentives.
The Obama administration is taking a different approach to incentivizing educational improvements. The president's 2011 budget proposal includes billions in additional funding for elementary and secondary schools. The extra funding includes a large expansion of Mr. Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative, which awards competitive grants to states that implement reforms favored by the administration, such as linking teacher pay to student test performance.
Mr. Obama also wants to scrap No Child Left Behind's 2014 deadline by which all schools are supposed to reach "academic proficiency" in favor of a new goal of helping all students graduate "college or career ready." In order to receive funding for primary and secondary education, Mr. Obama said today that states will have to put in place a plan to adopt and certify "college and career ready" standards for reading and math. He praised the National Governors' Association for already working to develop common academic standards.
"If we can come together to do all this – in Washington, in state houses, across party and ideology – we'll raise the quality of American education," he said. "We'll give our students, workers and businesses every chance to succeed, and we will secure this century as the next American century."