Here is part of the speech. (Please read the entire speech, if you can):
It’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who’ve never gone to college is almost double what it is for those who have gone to college. It’s an economic issue when eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education by the end of this decade. It’s an economic issue when countries that out-educate us today are going to out-compete us tomorrow.
Now, for years, we’ve recognized that education is a prerequisite for prosperity. And yet, we’ve tolerated a status quo where America lags behind other nations. Just last week, we learned that in a single generation, America went from number one to 12th in college completion rates for young adults. Used to be number one, now we’re number 12.
At the same time, our 8th graders trail about eight — 10 other nations — 10 other nations in science and math. Meanwhile, when it comes to black students, African American students trail not only almost every other developed nation abroad, but they badly trail their white classmates here at home — an achievement gap that is widening the income gap between black and white, between rich and poor.
We’ve talked about it, we know about it, but we haven’t done enough about it. And this status quo is morally inexcusable, it s economically indefensible, and all of us are going to have to roll up our sleeves to change it.
I also want to directly speak to the issue of teachers. We may have some teachers here in the house. I know Urban League has got some teachers. Nothing is more important than teachers. The whole premise of Race to the Top is that teachers are the si
ngle most important factor in a child’s education from the moment they step into the classroom. And I know firsthand that the vast majority of teachers are working tirelessly, are passionate about their students, are often digging into their own pockets for basic supplies, are going above and beyond the call of duty.
So I want teachers to have higher salaries. I want them to have more support. I want them to be trained like the professionals they are –- with rigorous residencies like the ones that doctors go through. I want to give them a career ladder so they’ve opportunities to advance, and earn real financial security. I don’t want talented young people to say I’d love to teach but I can’t afford it.
I want them to have a fulfilling and supportive workplace environment. I want them to have the resources — from basic supplies to reasonable class sizes — that help them succeed. And instead of a culture where we’re always idolizing sports stars or celebrities, I want us to build a culture where we idolize the people who are shaping our children’s future. I want some teachers on the covers of some of those magazines. Some teachers on MTV, featured.
So I am 110 percent behind our teachers. But all I’m asking in return — as a President, as a parent, and as a citizen — is some measure of accountability. So even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we’ve got to make sure we’re seeing results in the classroom. If we’re not seeing results in the classroom, then let’s work with teachers to help them become more effective. If that doesn’t work, let’s find the right teacher for that classroom.