Still in the Vague Phase
We have to give the woman some time to build up momentum (or not), but per Julia Steiny’s column today, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is still in the phase of offering vague goals:
1. “Ensure educator excellence”: Recruit, support and evaluate highly effective teachers and leaders.
2. “Accelerate school performance”: Engage broad community support, especially from parents, in promoting excellence and equity. Intervene assertively in persistently struggling schools.
3. “Establish internationally competitive standards and high-quality assessments”: Rhode Island’s ongoing efforts to anchor our standards in internationally-recognized best practice must remain a priority.
4. “Develop data systems that drive student performance”: Upgrade our current systems and get more user-friendly data into the hands of all stakeholders.
5. “Develop finance systems that drive student performance”: Establish fair and equitable funding, and become vigilant stewards of the taxpayers’ investment.
Steiny characterizes Gist as “a jolt of pure energy,” which could mean that she intends to take the state’s apathy by the throat. Of course, I’ve also seen such jolts emanating from “sales people” promoting direct marketing pyramid schemes. Some folks take their first rule as “you’ve got to be excited to get the mark excited,” and I’ve always been wary of those who’ve tried to stir hot emotion rather than well-reasoned and optimistic determination. As for those who are genuine in their uncontainable energy for change, inasmuch as the world has its store of recalcitrance to storms of personality, they cannot always succeed, and their response to delay can be difficult to predict.
So, we’re left waiting to see whether Ms. Gist wins quickly; buckles down for the grit of long-view transformation despite human lethargy; faces obstacles and determines the effort not worth the sacrifice of some other opportunity that has suddenly appeared; or some other possibility. In sum: There are encouraging sounds coming from the commissioner’s office, but it’s too early to tell whether it’s just the burble of some inspirational movie playing in the background.