Don’t Ignore Grass-Roots Education Reform

An editorial in Saturday’s Projo compared the poor performance of Rhode Island’s public schools to the better performance of those in neighboring Massachusetts, then listed a number of reform proposals for closing the gap…

Impose high-stakes testing.
Create performance incentives for teachers, through pay — rewarding those who do a great job, and especially those who take on the burden of teaching in urban schools.
Rigorously evaluate teachers annually, with real consequences for performance.
Reform the state’s education schools so that they turn out better-educated teachers.
Pass laws protecting the rights of school administrators, so that they can be held accountable for school non-performance.
Spend money in ways that will directly help the students, rather than simply lining the pockets of politically powerful groups in the form of unusually generous benefits.
Practice citizen participation: Make it clear that voters next year will reject incumbent legislators who fail to support a strong public-education reform agenda.
This list of top-down bureaucratic reforms (some of which are necessary) ignores grass-roots strengths of the Massachusetts education system. 1) Massachusetts has school choice within the public system. Parents can send their child to public schools in the state that have opted-in to the choice program. 2) Massachusetts has a stronger network of charter schools than does Rhode Island. In large part, this is because the Massachusetts legislature has not shown the degree of hostility to charter schools that the Rhode Island legislature has.
Rhode Island needs to consider these kinds of grass-roots ideas as part of any education reform. Let parents send their children to the schools that work, instead of having government expend money and effort on schools that don’t.

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