Teachers in Rhode Island frequently write me to tell me that the state is rapidly deteriorating in its commitment to public education, especially after winning $75 million from the Race to the Top. Commissioner Deborah Gist is enamored of evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, and she fought hard to increase the number of charter schools in the state, over the determined opposition of parents. The parents in Cranston actually defeated the state’s efforts to bring in the charter chain Achievement First, which now is bound for Providence. Commissioner Gist is a member of the rightwing group called Chiefs for Change, which is affiliated somehow with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and is religiously devoted to data, testing, accountability, grading, ranking, rating, and other means of turning children and teachers into data points. Chiefs for Change sent out a press release congratulating Louisiana on the passage of Jindal’s legislation to dismantle public education and replace it with vouchers and charters, while reducing the status of teachers to at-will employees who can be easily fired.
I personally don’t think Rhode Island is the worst state, as compared to states like Louisiana, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Indiana. But it deserves credit for moving in the same direction and seeking to earn its spurs in the competition for worst.
|In Rhode Island, all the teachers in Central Falls were fired, and a year later all the teachers in Providence were fired. Commish Gist’s PhD dissertation (defended about a month ago) was on this horrendous new evaluation plan. Principals from around the State were begging her to slow the process down because it was impossible for them, and for teachers, to get it done. In many cases, one principal was responsible for evaluating 123 teachers, complete with scripts, multiple classroom visits, and tons of paperwork on both sides. Many teachers and admins have retired because of this madness.|