• With: Michelle Rhee, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Joe Rago, Jason Riley, Dorothy Rabinowitz

    GIGOT: That's right. You want to -- if you're running as a Republican, you don't want to sound like that.

    RABINOWITZ: No.

    GIGOT: You want to be a contrast.

    RABINOWITZ: You want to be the guy who normally is, this down to earth fellow, instead of the symphony of exaltation about New Jersey --

    (LAUGHTER)

    RABINOWITZ: -- into which he falls now and again. This is a speech that he should be watching before he goes on the campaign trail. I have great hopes for Christie's capacity to learn.

    GIGOT: So, Jason, what do you think? I've listened to the governor a couple of times and I -- one thing, he can be very compelling. He tends to go on and on and on and on.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

    RILEY: Politicians are not known for their brevity.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: But it's a particular kind of indiscipline that I think can get you into trouble. Everybody thinks it's a great 20-minute speech. When it's a great 30-minute speech, they think, how can I get out of here?

    (LAUGHTER)

    RILEY: Well, that's why we have the long primary process. He'll get tested. He'll learn how to tighten his game a little bit. I think he'll get better as he goes forward.

    But I think he has a very compelling case to make here. This is a very blue state. This is a state Obama won by double digits.

    GIGOT: Democratic state.

    RILEY: And he came out -- he comes out of this race with a running start. I think, particularly, his ability to appeal to different demographic groups can go a long way.

    GIGOT: The liberals, Kim, are already saying though that his appeal is he's a moderate.

    STRASSEL: Right.

    GIGOT: And that is not a conservative, like all those other crazy Republicans in Washington. So how does he bridge that in a Republican primary to be able to persuade conservatives, who are the bulk of the primary voters?

    STRASSEL: Yeah. Christie's problem here -- and he is relatively conservative for the party -- but, you know, being from New Jersey and having to work in that environment, the reality is, you step back, some of the reforms he's done have not been as striking or as far reaching as, for instance, what a Scott Walker did in Wisconsin in terms of government reform. I think what you see happen as he settles into the second term, you're going to see a pivot from Chris Christie. He'll be more aggressive about putting out some things that really do resonate with the Republican base on taxes and government reform. Maybe some of these areas where he's been a little weaker, for instance, the environment, climate change --

    GIGOT: OK.

    STRASSEL: -- he might try to do something there --

    GIGOT: OK. Well, we'll --

    STRASSEL: -- and try to position himself.

    GIGOT: All right, Kim, thanks.

    When we come back, new education reforms in Washington, D.C., and Tennessee have taken effect. Find out how well schools in those regions have improved, next.

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    GIGOT: The nation's report card is out. The latest results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows students in Tennessee and the District of Columbia made the biggest improvements in math and reading at the fourth and eighth grade levels. What are those school districts doing that sets them apart from the rest?

    I'm joined by Michelle Rhee, former D.C. schools chancellor and founder of studentsfirst.org.

    Welcome back to the program. Great to have you here.

    MICHELLE RHEE, FORMER WASHINGTON, D.C., SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR & FOUNDER AND CEO, STUDENTSFIRST.ORG: Thanks for having me.

    GIGOT: So as you look at the results -- I looked at -- if you look at -- let's deal with top line, first, nationwide.

    RHEE: Yes.

    GIGOT: It looks like there's not as much progress between 2011 and 2013 as we would like, nationwide. Do you agree with that?

    RHEE: That's right. The results were relatively flat. We saw a little bit of an uptick here and there, but overall the nation is not gaining ground in the way that we would want to see it.

    GIGOT: OK. Let's focus in on where there was progress. Two of those states, well, District of Columbia, where you were the former school's chancellor, and Tennessee, what do you think explains their rather remarkable progress, with Tennessee catching up to almost the national average, and the district, as you know, having been one of the worst school districts in the country?

    RHEE: Well, these are both jurisdictions that have struggled in the past pretty significantly with large numbers of kids in failing schools. And while we can't attribute directly any one policy to the gains we've seen, we have to look at these two places and say, what were they doing.

    GIGOT: Right.