Rhode Island’s Poorly Performing Education System: Sorting out Who is Responsible
The Rhode Island chapter of the 2007 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality, pinpoints one of the major culprits responsible for the unacceptable state of Rhode Island’s education system: Rhode Island’s state government. [In my view, the two other culprits are School Committees and City/Town Councils.] And with apologies to Speaker Murphy who frowns on finger pointing, inasmuch as the lion’s share of power vests with the General Assembly given the peculiarities of the Rhode Island Constitution, the lion’s share of the responsibility in this as in many other matters also rests with that body.
From the Yearbook introduction:
The State Teacher Policy Yearbook examines what is arguably the single most powerful authority over the teaching profession: state government. State authority over the profession—whether through regulation approved by state boards of education or professional standards boards or by laws passed by legislatures— is far reaching. These policies have an impact on who decides to enter teaching, who stays—and everything in between.
The Yearbook provides an unprecedented analysis of the full range of each state’s teacher policies, measured against a realistic blueprint for reform. It identifies six key areas in urgent need of policy attention, along with specific policy goals within these areas.
In the six key areas, Rhode Island government receives five “D’s” and one “F”. [Should any of these areas have been positively reformed since this evaluation was completed, I would be pleased to update this post.] Failures/omissions in the following areas were particularly surprising because they strike me as very basic procedures:
– Page 19: Rhode Island does not require new secondary teachers to pass a subject matter test.
– Page 47: Rhode Island fails to make “instructional effectiveness” and “evidence of student learning” principle factors in teacher evaluations.
– Page 55: Rhode Island has failed to establish a policy “regarding the frequency of teacher evaluations or the consequences of negative evaluations”.
The second and third items above have been particularly damaging because they have enabled school committees to negotiate and then execute contracts that have contained raises (often double digit when steps increases are added in) without regard to student or teacher performance.
Thus did Rhode Island’s education system reach the current unacceptable state of affairs. [Source: American Legislative Exchange Council]
– Pupil to Teacher ratio: First nationally
– Funding: Thirteenth highest nationally
– Rank of Academic Achievement: Forty First nationally
Governor Carcieri has signaled early that cities and towns should not look for an increase in state aid from the next budget. While this decision was prompted by budget considerations, it is clear from our ALEC rankings that as we look to address the weaknesses of our educational system, simply infusing mo’ money would not do the trick in any event and we must examine other factors. The thoughtful analysis of Rhode Island’s chapter in the State Teacher Policy Yearbook points to the areas upon which we can begin to focus.
[Thanks to commenter George Elbow who reminded us that “it’s for the children”, so sent me looking for ways that we really could make it “for the children”.]