"Waiting for Superman" star on cheating scandals
Finding and keeping good teachers in U.S. public schools is an ongoing challenge for the nation's educators.
On "The Early Show," CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford asked Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C.'s public school system and a major player in the recent documentary "Waiting for Superman," about the teacher cheating scandals that have rocked the Atlanta-area and Washington, D.C. schools.
Crawford said, "Down in Atlanta, I think there are about 178 people implicated. And even in Washington, D.C. Now, there's an investigation about cheating to try to improve those student scores, erasing things on tests. ... What's your response to that? Do you think your effort to assess and evaluate these teachers actually put too much pressure on the teachers, that sets a bad example, really, and encourages them to cheat?"
Rhee replied, "Look, I think the vast majority of teachers and principals would never compromise their personal or professional integrity and cheat on a test. I don't think the vast majority of people would do that. Unfortunately, we do have a small number of people who are making the wrong decision and deciding to cheat. I don't think, though, that that can erase the fact that so many professionals out there are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
"So I think school districts need to make sure they are putting the proper test security measures in place. When we do find that the small number of people are cheating and doing the wrong thing, then we need to have the appropriate consequences for them. But I think that it's important not to draw the conclusion that, because a minority of people are cheating, that we should throw the entire testing and accountability system out. That makes no sense whatsoever."
Rhee said a major issue in U.S. schools is a set of standards for teachers.
Rhee is now the founder and chief executive officer of StudentsFirst, a student advocacy group.
"If we hold high expectations for children, they will rise to meet them. And we, as the adults in the system, and for teachers ... they think this all the time, it is part of their responsibility to ensure that the children are meeting those expectations. And when we set those expectations, it's amazing what can happen. ... What we should be striving for is making sure that every single child in every single classroom across this country has a (good) teacher."
When asked how the best and brightest can be attracted to education, Rhee said it has to be easier for people to become teachers.
"There is a lot of interest from people," she said. "Recent college graduates, mid-career professionals, people are very interested in the possibility of coming into teaching. What we have to do is make it easy for them to do so. We should have high standards for the kinds of people who are entering into the classrooms, but for somebody who has studied to potentially become a lawyer...we have to have a path for them. ... It should be that, when we have talented people who don't necessarily have an education degree, but who have very, very strong content knowledge, we have to have a path for those people to come through."
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