Even when he verbally endorses the reform idea of merit pay for teachers, he cleverly re-defines merit so that it will be measured by teachers themselves, rather than by "arbitrary tests." In other words, Obama placates critics of the educational status quo by being for merit pay in words, while making those words meaningless, so as not to offend the teachers' unions.
The failings of teachers are only part of the disaster of inner city public schools. Disruptive and violent students can make it impossible for even the best teachers to educate students.
Administrators are reluctant to impose any serious punishment on those students who make it impossible for other students to learn. Partly this is because liberal judges can make it literally a federal case if more minority students are punished than others.
In other words, if black males are punished more often than Asian American females, that can be enough to get the administrators drawn into a legal labyrinth, costing money and time, even if the punishment is eventually upheld.
When a bill was introduced into the Illinois state legislature that would put more teeth into suspensions of misbehaving students, Barack Obama voted against that bill.
A real reformer would want to crack down on both unruly students and unaccountable teachers. A clever politician would speak eloquently, demand "change"-- and then vote for the status quo. Obama talks a great game.