'This Week' Transcript: Crisis in the Classroom

And the last thing I'll say is this: We have watched other countries outpace us, but let's look at the country that now outpaces us the most, Finland. When they start doing the things that the secretary and I are talking about, really focus on curriculum, focus on how we make -- how we help teachers be the best and the brightest, have supportive principals, have the conditions that help eradicate student failure, then kids succeed.

Let me ask you, Michelle Rhee -- and maybe it's something for both Secretary Duncan and you -- you've called it a civil rights issue, education.

DUNCAN: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: But, of course, many in the civil rights movement, amongst minorities and blacks here are saying that, in fact, we should be giving -- you should be giving the stimulus money not based on performance and innovative proposals, but based on need, because there's such a need. How do you deal with that in your schools, Michelle?

RHEE: Well, first of all, I mean, we totally disagree with the notion that the -- the right thing to do in terms of putting resources into the school districts is to continue the formula funding of the past that has completely failed children, and particularly poor and minority children in this country.

What the secretary and the president have done through Race to the Top has said we're going to incent innovation. We don't want the -- we don't want to maintain the status quo. We want people who are going to be aggressive about really reforming their districts and who are serious about that. And we're going to give the resources to those -- to those states and to those districts.

And I think that this idea that somehow by just continuing to give all of the districts that same amount of money over and over again is going to produce a different result is absolutely mad.

AMANPOUR: Interestingly, we have a piece of information, a graphic showing how parents feel about merit pay, and we'll put it up right now. But basically, amongst parents, 72 percent say, yes, the teachers should be paid based on the quality of their work, and 28 percent say, no, they should be paid standard scale. Now, that's pretty much the same amongst public school parents and parents nationally.

Is this the way to go?

DUNCAN: It's a piece in the answer. But, again, let me -- this stuff is complicated. What we've done through Race to the Top is you're seeing the vast majority of states, almost 40 states, raise standards, higher standards for every single child. And as a country, we've dummied down standards. We've reduced them due to political pressure, and we've actually been lying to children and parents, telling them they're ready when they're not.

All of us are working together to raise standards. Rewarding excellence is important. Creating wraparound services, after-school programming, tutoring, mentoring, family support, counseling is important, figuring out how you get the best talent where you need it the most important, engaging parents in more creative ways is important.

There's no simple answer here. All these things are working together. But, yes, we have to shine a spotlight on excellence. We have hundreds of thousands of teachers who are beating the odds every single day, performing miracles. We have extraordinary schools closing achievement gaps, great districts, great states. We have to learn from excellence in education. The answers are all out there.

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