ARLINGTON, Va., March 14 (UPI) -- Nowadays, it isn't enough to make sure no child is left behind in education, but that all children succeed, U.S. President Obama said Monday in Arlington, Va.
When outlining his plan to overhaul the "No Child Left Behind" Act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, Obama also called on Congress to pass a bill and get it to his desk before the start of the next school year in the fall.
"In the 21st century, it's not enough to leave no child behind," Obama said during a visit to Kenmore Middle. "We need to help every child get ahead."
Obama said he was proud of the commitment of congressional Democrats and Republicans to fix No Child Left Behind.
"They recognize education is an area where we can't afford to drag our feet," Obama said as he called on Congress to send him an education reform bill he could sign.
Standing in front of a backdrop emblazoned with "Winning the future; responsibility, reform, results," Obama said NCLB had great goals -- more accountability, better standards and a closure of achievement gaps -- but stumbled over how to measure whether those goals are achieved.
"We need to make sure we're graduating students who are ready for college and ready for careers," Obama said. "We need to get outstanding teachers in every classroom … and not only hold failing schools accountable but also help turn those schools around."
He said new estimates under existing NCLB parameters indicated more than 80 percent of the country's schools could be labeled as failing.
"That's an astonishing number," Obama said, noting Kenmore was on the list of "failing" schools.
"Kenmore's thriving," He said. "You've got more work to do, but you're doing fine."
Besides correcting how schools are labeled and identified, Obama said better standards must be set with clearer goals of graduating students who are ready for college or a career, Obama said.
Better assessments both of academic knowledge and skills such as critical thinking or collaborative work.
"We need to refine how we're assessing progress so we can have accountability without rigidity," Obama said.
But improvements to the educational system "won't mean a thing without outstanding teachers," Obama said.
"In South Korea, teachers are known as nation-builders," Obama said. "I think it's time we treated our teachers with the same level of respect in America."
But education reform costs cash, he said.
"Fixing our failing schools costs money and there isn't a lot of money to go around; I understand," Obama said.
He said White House officials were meeting with congressional Democrats and Republicans to find ways to get the budget deficit under control.
"But even as we do, we can't be reckless and we can't be irresponsible about how we cut," Obama said. "Let me make it plain: We cannot cut education. We can't cut the things that will make America more competitive."
A budget that "sacrifices our commitment to education would be a budget that's sacrificing our country's future," Obama said. "And I will not let it happen. I'm not willing to tell these young people right here that their education isn't a priority."