The president couldn't join the live Education Nation discussion at New York Public LIbrary Tuesday, but did a pre-taped interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie.
He talked No Child Left Behind -- which he said gave students a "chance to learn" but was underfunded -- student proficiency and how diversity plays a role in U.S. students' comparatively low performance in core subjects with respect to global peers.
"We've got poor kids and some kids who have deep troubles at home, but there's no doubt that we can step up our game," Obama said. "And this is a big argument and a big difference that I've got with Governor [Mitt] Romney in this election, because they talk a good game about reform, but when you actually look at their budgets, they are talking about slashing our investment in education by 20 percent, 25 percent."
Obama also discussed college tuition and joked about students' low expectations for college dining when he was a student. Reports say that the cost of a college degree in America has risen 1,120 percent in the last three decades.
The president also admits that he was a "mediocre student" before college and "goofed off" too much while in school.
"Malia and Sasha are so far ahead of me, basically in all respects. They're just way better people than I was at their age, and they are doing wonderfully, I couldn't be prouder of them." he said. "I will say that at least at the school they are at, they are getting a lot more homework than I did when I was that age. They seem to be working deep into the night. You know, I didn't study that hard until the night before an exam."
Has the president ever failed a test?
"Oh yes, absolutely," he said.
Check out the rest of the interview above.