The document outlining the Democrats' guiding principles stakes out a position on teachers' pay that unions have long opposed, USA Today reported Wednesday.
Joe Williams, head of Democrats for Education Reform, says the 2008 platform has a greater emphasis on educational quality for poor and urban students.
"If there's ever going to be a time for change, this is going to be it," Williams said.
Among the changes is a call to pay teachers more if they raise test scores, teach in "underserved areas," or take on additional responsibilities such as mentoring new teachers.
"We have to understand that as Democrats we have been wrong on education and its time to get it right," Newark Mayor Cory Booker told a forum in Denver.
Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty added "insane work rules" are turning many reformers against unions.