Sunday Spotlight: Michelle Rhee

Controversial education reformer, author of the new book "Radical: Fighting to Put Students First."
4:02 | 02/03/13

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Transcript for Sunday Spotlight: Michelle Rhee
Time now for our sunday spotlight this week on michelle rhee. An education activist with a knack for drawing attention and controversy. She made the cover of "time" back in 2008 when heading the d.C. Public schools and left that job under a bit of fire after dismissing 36 principals and ending teacher tenure. Now head of a nationwide organization students first, michelle has a new book out called "radical" and joins us now. Good morning, michelle. Good morning. You have this report on every state in the nation and how they're doing on education. And you are a tough grader. NO A's, A COUPLE OF "B" MINUSES And more than two-thirds received a "d" or "f" overall. That is a pretty dismal assistment of where things stand. It shows how far we have to go. We as students first strongly believe there's no shortage of educators out there who are innovative and wanting to do the right thing and also know that all of our kids can learn at the highest levels when they're in the right school environment. The problem is that these educators and kids are trapped in a school system that -- and a bureaucracy that's really driven by antiquated rules and policies so we seek to change those policies and the environment they operate in. We've seen two presidents in a row now who fancy themselves and push education reform, so what's the single most important thing that can be done right now on a national level to fix our schools? Well, I think it is focusing on changing those laws and policies, and we think that three different areas are critical. First making sure that there's a highly effective teacher in front of every single child every single day. The second is informing parents and giving them options so that no family ever feels like they're trapped in a failing school, and third is making sure that we're using taxpayer dollars wisely and we're governing school systems well. We've also seen that there's been a backlash, though, against how we assess how schools and teachers are doing. Just this week, teachers in seattle saying we're not going to go forward with these standardized tests anymore. A lot of parents resisting it, as well. Yeah. Well, I think we've got to strike a balance. You don't want a situation where there's an overemphasis on testing, but at the same time, we had decades where there was no accountability whatsoever, and our school system was graduating kids who didn't have basic skills and knowledge. They couldn't read and do math appropriately and at grade level, and that means they couldn't find appropriate jobs, so we had to strike the balance between making sure that we're not overemphasizing good tests but yet making also sure that we're holding kids and schools accountable for what kids know and are able to do. I love your title "radical." You charged hard in washington, d.C. You made a lot of enemies pretty quickly and some thought you seemed to enjoy the rough and tumble a little bit too much. There was even that camera crew that followed you as you actually fired a principal. So do you have any second thoughts about the style that you showed in d.C.? Yeah, well, my style is very deliberative and very focused on doing what'sids, and so I wouldn't change that so much, but what I did learn about my experiences in d.C. Is that what we were doing I think were absolutely the right things. I needed to focus a little bit more on how we were communicating those things and how we were doing things, so should I have fired ineffective principals, absolutely. Should I have done so on national tv, probably not. Bill turk, the education writer for "the washington post" who covered you and reviewed your book said you come off as a radical humbled by a dose of realism. Is that fair? I think that is fair. It is interesting because when i first got to d.C. People said, well, gosh, she's so radical, she's a lightning rod, and in my mind I was doing things that seemed obvious to me, closing failing schools, removing ineffective people, cutting a central office bureaucracy and finally I came to the conclusion that if bringing some commonsense solutions to a dysfunctional system makes me a radical then so be it. Okay, michelle rhee, thanks very much. The book is called "radical." It is out tomorrow.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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