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

    RHEE: And if you ask that question, it's very clear tht both of these states are places that, one, invested in teacher effectiveness. They really prioritized that by putting in place different pay structures that recognized and rewarded the best teachers in the classroom.

    GIGOT: OK.

    RHEE: They put in place rigorous teacher evaluation systems. And they also invested heavily in professional development.

    The second thing that both of these jurisdictions did is put in place high standards. Both of them were early adapters of the Common Core standards, which are a set of internationally benchmarked national standards which will ensure that American kids are going to catch up with the rest of the world so that we're no longer 25th in math.

    GIGOT: Let's dig into the teacher evaluations a little bit. Because the key to it seems to be -- at least one of the keys seems to be that you've got to link teacher evaluations to teacher performance. That is, you've got to link them to, actually, do you see progress on tests? Is that key in both states?

    RHEE: That's absolutely right. When I was the chancellor in D.C., we had a circumstance where only 8 percent of our children in eighth grade were on grade level in mathematics. Yet, when you looked at the performance evaluations of the adults in the system, 98 percent of them were being rated as doing a great job.

    GIGOT: Everybody was a genius, yeah.

    RHEE: That's right. So you had this total disconnect. And D.C. and Tennessee were the two jurisdictions across the country that actually implemented the model first, which said we have to link how well students are doing, how much they're growing to a teacher's evaluation. And I think we're beginning to see the fruits of that.

    GIGOT: You talked about rewarding good teachers with extra pay, but how do you weed out -- how did you weed out in D.C. ineffective teachers, which can be a big part of the problem for many students? How do you decide who stays and who goes?

    RHEE: Right. Well, it's important to note that when you put in place a teacher evaluation system, you can't look at teachers through any one lens. You have to look at them through multiple lenses. What both D.C. and Tennessee did was implement teacher evaluation systems that looked, at one, student growth but, two, classroom observations, three, here in Tennessee, they're using student surveys to link to teacher evaluations. So you have to look through multiple lenses at a teacher's performance overall. But when teachers are not performing where they need to be, when they are rated as ineffective, then there has to be real consequences.

    GIGOT: Right. Well, in D.C., you have -- if you were rated ineffective, the teacher was rated ineffective, you could be removed the first year. Then, if you were minimally effective, you got a year to shape up.

    RHEE: Correct.

    GIGOT: And then -- but you could be removed that second year. One of the things that's striking in D.C. is that many of those labeled minimally effective decided, well, I'll leave on my own.

    RHEE: Right.

    GIGOT: So that was a significant incentive for -- to sort the good from the bad.

    RHEE: That's right. Stanford and the University of Virginia just did a study on the evaluation system and the paper performance system that D.C. put in place. And what it said was that because the higher performers were being paid a whole lot more money, the district was retaining them at higher rates, which is what you want.

    GIGOT: You want to do.

    RHEE: And for those at the bottom of the scale, ineffective teachers and minimally effective teachers, because they knew that it was -- you know, they had to either improve or leave, that you saw a lot of low performers sort of self-attriting, choosing to leave. But what you also saw was that the district invested money and resources and time into making all teachers better, ensuring there's good professional development options.

    GIGOT: Right.

    RHEE: So a lot of the teachers in the middle all improved their performance, which is exactly what you want to see.

    GIGOT: I remember writing about your fight in D.C. to get this through. And a lot of the unions -- the teachers unions really fought it. How can we spread this success in D.C. and Tennessee, this model, elsewhere around the country?

    RHEE: I think what you need is courageous politicians. Any time you are really disrupting the status quo, you're implementing significant change that people are not used to, you're going to get a lot of pushback.

    GIGOT: Right.

    RHEE: And in Tennessee, both Governor Haslem (ph) and Commissioner Huckman (ph) have been moving forward on aggressive reforms but they've also facing a tremendous amount of opposition. And you have to be able to push through that, as politicians, and say, you know what, even though some adults might not be happy with this, this is what is good and right for kids. It's what's going to produce better outcomes for children.

    GIGOT: All right, Michelle, thanks so much for being here. And we'll be watching what happens.

    We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.


    GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week -- Dan?

    HENNINGER: Paul, a miss to the National Football League, a miss to Miami Dolphins lineman, Richie Incognito, and his teammate, Jonathan Martin, who blew up the NFL by accusing Mr. Incognito of bullying him. I mean, give me a break. These are guys who spent all day Sunday taunting, whooping and whacking each other nearly senseless? Bullying? I can't believe it.

    GIGOT: All right.


    RILEY: This is a miss for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who this week admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in office, Paul, yet he refuses to resign. He says his heavy drinking drove him to smoke crack, which, for some of us, is a second reason for him --

    GIGOT: Yes, that's reassuring.

    RILEY: -- to resign. In any case, there is no recall process in Toronto. The city council cannot remove him. So unless he grows a conscience, it looks like Toronto will be stuck with him until the end of his term next year.

    GIGOT: All right.


    RAGO: Paul, the National Academy of Science reported this week that there's 8.8 billion planets in the Milky Way about the same size as earth, about the same distance from a sun-like star. That means you could sustain water, oxygen and maybe life somewhere else. So this is a hit for Al Gore, Paul Krugman and the other doomsayers out there. Maybe there's hope after all.

    GIGOT: We've got a place to go.

    All right. That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and all to you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.

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