A Focus on Spreading Largess
Meanwhile, in education, Commissioner Deborah Gist is trying to change the way in which Rhode Island schools handle’s a teacher’s career trajectory so that performance coincides with raises and advancement. (Readers from the private sector may recognize this strange concept as “the way things work.”) One of the means by which the commissioner would achieve this shift is through the certification process:
For the first time, certification would be tied to a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, based on the new evaluation system rolling out this fall.
Also, certification would be tiered, with new teachers receiving a three-year “initial” certificate, and advancing to a five-year “professional certificate” if their evaluations are satisfactory. To distinguish the top level, teachers who are “highly effective” would be eligible for a seven-year “advanced” certificate.
Moreover, teachers wouldn’t necessarily reap rewards for putting in their time in a college classroom, gaining credits. Instead, working with their principals — and with reference to their evaluations — they would pursue continuing education that applies to their own skill sets and situations. That could still mean college courses, but it could also mean workshops or other less formal (potentially less costly) activities.
Not surprisingly, some members of the Rhode Island Certification Policy Advisory Board, “which includes teachers union officials, the heads of schools of education at the state colleges, and representatives of teachers, principals and superintendents,” aren’t fond of the idea. Rhode Island College Dean of the School of Education Alexander Sidorkin, for example, thinks it’s important for teachers to continue purchasing his organization’s offered courses. To reach the “advanced certificate,” he’d like to require teachers to have purchased their full Master’s worth of 30 credits.
Any teacher who goes through RIC would thereby ensure that Sidorkin’s department would bring in something north of $11,400 per teacher. It doesn’t take but a bit of back-of-the-envelope calculation to observe that the market in question amounts to tens of millions of dollars.
Nonetheless, a professional analyst of such things, Arthur McKee, doesn’t think this money transfer (ultimately from the taxpayer to institutions of higher education) is necessarily worth the investment:
“By and large, getting a master’s degree in education does not increase effectiveness in the classroom, whatsoever,” he said.
But it does increase the revenue of organizations with representatives in notable positions in state government.