March 11, 2008

Still Going to School

Justin Katz

A cost-benefit analysis of sorts has led me to give up on the Tiverton town council. I simply can't afford to devote that much time to such an unprofitable activity (especially if my taxes are going to continue to climb).

Still, the school committee remains sufficiently interesting and important that I'll continue to make the time for it. That despite the likelihood that my children won't long be in the public system. (Another matter that will require me to maximize the profitability of my hours.)

It'll wear you down, this local government participation. The latest cuts that Superintendent Bill Rearick has proposed include a hundred dollars for repair here and there, $2,500 each from a couple of testing accounts. And yet the teachers are working to rule.

Now Rearick is talking about the NECAP results and pointing out that Tiverton High School was #11 in the state overall. But 72% of the kids aren't proficient in math. "It's certainly not a cure-all, but money would help us — push our kids and get our teachers additional training." Now a teacher is explaining that the kids have no incentive to apply themselves to the test.

Rearick: "It's a new test that assumes that students have basic skills and tests them on higher level thinking."

A principal: "Not sure whether this is a valid test." Apparently, low-scoring kids said they had plenty of time for the test (because they hadn't been prepared for a signficant number of the questions anyway), while higher-scoring students felt that they didn't have enough time.

Stunningly, nobody in the auditorium seems to feel any sense of urgency to improve these math scores. Not a single specific request or declaration concerning steps to improve them was voiced. Some stuff is up to the state. Some stuff has to do with the test. Some stuff involves the alignment of the stars.

The superintendent and some committee members congratulated the staff and teachers for doing so comparatively well. What? Either the test is invalid or our children are being abysmally cheated when it comes to math.

Can I possibly be the only person in some way connected to the Tiverton school district who thinks this matter shouldn't be brushed off the table with just a few minutes of mitigation?

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No one on the School Committee or in the audience wants to address a 72% non-proficiency rate in math?? Wow.

One explanation is that the way teacher unions negotiate contracts town to town and bring in for comparison the terms of other towns' contracts has infested the evaluation of student performance.

Statewide proficiency is 20%? Damn. 28% in our town looks fine.

Posted by: Monique at March 11, 2008 9:48 PM


You said it all with these two quotes from the administrators guiding and directing the teachers that are trying to teach the children.

Rearick: "It's a new test that assumes that students have basic skills and tests them on higher level thinking."

A principal: "Not sure whether this is a valid test."

No RI state minimum standards to guide city and town school departments and their teachers.

Posted by: Ken at March 12, 2008 1:38 AM

Ken, was there ever an instance that Rhode Island had statewide standards for its schools?

And do the other 49 states have statewide standards for their schools?

Posted by: Monique at March 12, 2008 7:33 AM

The NECAP test, created by RI,NH and VT, in response to NCLB requirements, finally measures just how poorly kids are being taught math, English and reading.

When MCAS was introduced in MA in 1998, the howls from local educators was about the same as we are hearing from Tiverton educators.

Now, ten years later, over 70 percent of MA tenth graders are proficient in the three test areas, making the state #1 in K-12 education.

In RI, 22% of 10th graders are math proficient, while in NH, 26% are. So this isn't just a RI problem, and it took MA years to improve K-12 education performance.

Can RI shorten the time to improve student and teacher performance by consulting with its MA peers?

Posted by: Bob at March 12, 2008 11:27 AM


It looks like RI Department of Education has standards per the web site but the question is why it’s not getting into the classroom? RIDE website.

I can’t speak for the 49 other states but I can tell you what I seen and heard from my neighbors, if the kids aren’t learning the parents in Hawaii are called into school. Parents, grandparents, business all take an active role in volunteering, tutoring and helping classroom teachers in the schools. Parent actually go into schools and paint the classrooms, hallways, outside and do landscaping and athletic field maintenance. Schools are very competitive here in academics and sports (public and private) and there is a lot of school pride. Teachers are highly respected here (even though it’s NEA). I have not heard or seen one negative thing written about the Hawaii teachers.

Hawaii Department of Education has standards the school children must attain to pass on to the next grade or to graduate. See the following link. and the Hawaii standards toolkit

As a matter of fact Hawaii is developing a new “super diploma” for High schools with optional higher levels of math and English. Besides the regular high school diploma the optional higher level courses will lead to a “College and Career Ready Diploma”. Hawaii Department of Education once finished with advanced level standards creation and rules will begin “super diploma” with the class of 2013.

Posted by: Ken at March 12, 2008 8:03 PM


The teachers can't seem to teach their students math? Why not allow the students access to the contract negotiations? The kids will see that the teachers certainly don't shortchange themselves when it comes to lining their own pockets. They seem to know how to do math when it benefits them. Pathetic.

Posted by: David at March 13, 2008 9:24 AM


Take a look at Tiverton's Gr 3-8 NECAP scores. They were atrocious. Wonder why these haven't been discussed yet by the School Committee despite the fact that they were released back in Feb. Could it be the fact that Tiverton's scores were well at the bottom of the heap (only above the urban districts)? I guess these just didn't bear any public response from the Administration or teachers.

Posted by: WillP at March 14, 2008 7:39 PM
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