Michelle Rhee: Quality of Public Education ‘Dire’

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The state of public education in the United States is at a critical point, and the nation cannot wait any longer to improve the system, StudentsFirst founder and CEO Michelle Rheesaid Friday.

“Ii don’t think there is any one cause for the problems we face in public education today. There are, quite frankly, a lot of opportunities,” she said on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”

Rhee’s comments came the same month that a Gallup poll found that just 29 percent of respondents had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public schools, an all-time low.

“I actually don’t think that most Americans understand how dire the situation is,” she said. “Every year when the new results come out that show that America is near the bottom for internationals rankings for mathematics aptitude, you don’t hear an outcry.”

Rhee drew an analogy to the upcoming London 2012 Olympics.

“If America fell from No. 1 in the medal count to No. 26 in the medal count, there would be an absolute riot on our hands in this country,” she said. “Why don’t we have the same kind of response when looking at the educational achievement levels of our kids?”

But it’s not too late to fix things.

Rhee pointed to an innovative approach to reforming public schools in Connecticut.

There, the state Department of Education offered four districts the chance to develop plans to turn around the schools – in effect, placing the responsibility of results on teachers unions, according to the Hartford Courant.

Rhee said a couple of things were crucial.

“One, we have to focus on teacher quality. Of all the in school factors that exist’ the quality of teachers that are in front of our kids are the most important thing,” she said. “The second thing is we have to focus on making sure all families have high-quality school options for their kids.”

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