The Day the Reform Ended
February third might be considered the day education reform ceased in Rhode Island:
Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist wants to push back the deadline for more rigorous high school graduation requirements, and is backing off her proposal that Rhode Island establish a three-tier diploma system.
Gist now says the date on the requirements to get a high school diploma should be pushed back two years, to 2014, to give schools and students more time to prepare. The tougher standards require students to be at least “partially proficient” on state math and English tests or retake the tests and show improvement, among other requirements.
A headline the day after the above suggested continued tough talk, with “Gist says R.I. schools can’t postpone improvements,” but with the current governor, Board of Regents, and General Assembly, Commissioner Gist is likely to lose teeth, not gain them. The fact is that statewide math scores have only gone up 6% in the past two years, to 28% even “partially proficient,” and science scores nudged 3%, to 20%. If improvement continues at that rate, 2014 will still see large numbers of students unable to graduate.
RI Association of School Committees Executive Director Tim Duffy’s commentary in the article found at the second link inadvertently illustrates the point:
“We need to put districts on notice that this is the last time the can gets kicked down the road,” Duffy said, “because we can’t afford to do that to our public school students.”
Yeah, right. From participation in local governance and reading of events across the state, I can’t say I’ve observed anything that might be considered a sense of urgency about students “unable to perform simple math problems that most people can figure out in their heads,” as the article paraphrases Gist. Why would taking the pressure off them for another two years (with the union’s governor in office) change that attitude?
But because so many districts have been lagging in making these changes, it is only fair to give everyone more time to adjust, Duffy said.
Fair to whom? Certainly not to children who are being given diplomas without learning critical material, and certainly not to other students whose diplomas are devalued by broad knowledge that public education in Rhode Island is “lagging.”
All that’s happened is that complacent administrators, unions, and school committees have bought, with their votes and political contributions, another two years to wait for a miracle change quite apart from anything they’re actually doing — much in keeping with the state’s budgeting strategy.