January 8, 2008

Making a Difference in Education

Justin Katz

Thomas Schmeling passes on a bit of information of which we'd all do well to take note:

In December, I attended a meeting of the RI Board of Regents for Primary and Secondary Education. Parent/citizens were invited to comment on the question of how the teachers' contracts affect public education. It was not a large crowd and, given it was on a weekday at 3pm in Providence, almost everyone in the audience was from the city.

Our group concentrated on criticizing the practice of "bumping", by which senior teachers get to push junior teachers out of jobs, regardless of qualification. (There was a post on this issue on this blog back in October). The Regents, and chair Judge Flanders in particular, seemed
genuinely interested in hearing our stories.

At the end, noting the limited number of speakers, the Regents indicated that they would welcome further comment by email. I am passing this on to you because I know that some denizens of this blog have an interest in these issues.

The Regents seem to be taking this quite seriously. They are listening, and they are looking for practical ways to improve things. They have asked for comments about specific ways in which contracts affect public education. Stories about how the contract gets in the way of quality education would be welcome. (e.g. work-to-rule, teachers who refuse to meet with parents because of contract provisions, etc). So would stories about positive aspects of the contracts (e.g. how a contract protected a good teacher from unreasonable administrative retaliation). What is requested, and what is needed if actual changes are to happen, are specific examples tying provisions of the contracts to specific behaviors. Generalized polemics will probably turn out to be less than useful.

Send your comments to Regents' staff member Sharon Osborne at sharon.osborne@ride.ri.gov, they will be forwarded to the Regents.