March 1, 2010

President Obama Uses Rhode Island Education Reform Examples

Marc Comtois

In a speech to Americas Promise Alliance to tout a $900 million school turnaround program, President Obama turned to Rhode Island for both positive and negative examples (h/t ProJo):

We'll not only challenge states to identify high schools with graduation rates below 60 percent, we're going to invest another $900 million in strategies to get those graduation rates up. Strategies like transforming schools from top to bottom by bringing in a new principal, and training teachers to use more effective techniques in the classroom. Strategies like closing a school for a time and reopening it under new management, or even shutting it down entirely and sending its students to a better school.

And strategies like replacing a school's principal and at least half of its staff. Now, replacing school staff should only be done as a last resort. The public servants who work in America's schools -- whether they're principals or teachers, or counselors or coaches -- work long and hard on behalf of our children and they deserve our gratitude. Keep in mind I've got a sister who's a teacher, my mother spent time teaching -- one of the most important jobs that we have in this country. We've got an obligation as a country to give them the support they need -- because when principals and teachers succeed, then our children succeed.

So if a school is struggling, we have to work with the principal and the teachers to find a solution. We've got to give them a chance to make meaningful improvements. But if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability.

And that's what happened in Rhode Island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7 percent of 11th graders passed state math tests -- 7 percent. When a school board wasn't able to deliver change by other means, they voted to lay off the faculty and the staff. As my Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, says, our kids get only one chance at an education, and we need to get it right.

Of course, getting it right requires more than just transforming our lowest performing schools. It requires giving students who are behind in school a chance to catch up and a path to a diploma. It requires focusing on students, from middle school through high school, who face factors at home, in the neighborhood, or in school that put them at risk of dropping out. And it requires replicating innovative ideas that make class feel engaging and relevant -- because most high school dropouts in a recent study said the reason they dropped out was that they weren't interested in class and they weren't motivated to do their work.

So that's why we'll build on the efforts of places like Communities in Schools that make sure kids who are at risk of dropping out have one-on-one support. That's why we'll follow the example of places like the Met Center in Rhode Island that give students that individual attention, while also preparing them through real-world, hands-on training the possibility of succeeding in a career.

Whether it passes or fails, it sure looks like Rhode Island is going to be on the forefront of education reform.

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Should be interesting, as for a span of about 8 months, GWB was "the education president". That's what he wanted his legacy to be. Should be interesting to see if this is something that Obama can fix while being assailed from both sides, the conservatives and the unions. The unions are already calling for a new Democratic nominee in 2012.

Posted by: Patrick at March 1, 2010 1:48 PM

Given his track record so far, I'd be surprised if Obama could fix a parking ticket.

Posted by: BobN at March 1, 2010 2:52 PM

Ouch, progressives. That's gotta hurt...

Obama must be part of the massive anti-teacher union conspiracy that is being alleged over at RIFuture.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2010 3:16 PM

The Met? Although the Graduation rate is higher, look at the math rwsults…..

Check RIDE Infoworks.

At the School Obama held out as a success, only 5% are proficient at Math.

This at a “State Run” School!!!!

At CFHS the rate is 4%..

Sounds like the State is doing a TERRIFIC job, doesn’t it?

One wonders what actually constitutes fulfilling “graduation” requirements at the MET?

Posted by: Aldo at March 1, 2010 4:10 PM

There are several schools, mainly in Providence, that score far worse than Central Falls. Many are charter schools. Interesting. In addition, RIDE mandated that Robertson Elementary be parter with a local charter school. The aim was to have the charter school teachers teach the Robertson teachers how to teach. So how the hell did Robertson outscore the charter that is mentoring them? Interesting.

The other piece that I find interesting is the mass support these reforms are getting from conservatives. The money they are using to reform these schools is from the very same stimulus money that we conservatives opposed. Arnie Duncan was a failure in Chicago. The IL legislature siphoned money away from the burbs and into the urbans. This tactic is going to be great for towns like Cumberland and Lincoln. I understand people are not fond of unions. I'm in one and it hurts. But supporting what's happening is a deal with the devil.

This is how I'd love to see this pan out. Some Democrat senator or Rep will come to the unions rescue and "fix" the problem in CF. Unpopular yes, but they are on the ropes. Without union support they are vulnerable. Republicans will be in a great position to scoop up the seat of whomever negotiates this "fix"

Who was it that said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

Posted by: dirk at March 1, 2010 7:44 PM

aldo, are you the math consultant? I recognize the name.

Posted by: dirk at March 1, 2010 7:45 PM

So much for the Obama administration being socialist, eh?
Maybe this is his Sister Souljah moment.

Posted by: rhody at March 1, 2010 10:48 PM

Yet RIDE wants to cut funding for the Met by $9 million and $8 million from Davies.

Posted by: doughboys at March 2, 2010 12:01 AM

No I am not a Math consultatnt...

And hopefully you can also tell from the typos that I am not the typing consultant either. I just suffer from "fat fingers"

Take a look at Gist's record....
Eight years an an Elementray School teacher. None in a Middle or HS enviroment...

She left a MESS in DC and will do the same here in RI... This is just a stepping stone....

The scores in CF will be the same 4 years from now unless there is a paradigm shift in the neighborhood. The culture notms need to change!

Posted by: Aldo at March 2, 2010 7:19 AM

Obama's learning curve is getting better.He's made some gaffes with verbal forays into local issues before,and now he is doing the smart thing.He's still a socialist-but a poll-driven one.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 2, 2010 7:22 AM

Gist is just a hired gun. A year from now, The Don will be gone, and some other governor will shell out six digits for her act. She 'aint worried about the consequences of her actions here.

Posted by: rhody at March 2, 2010 4:48 PM

Obama should have kept out of this. Sure it's a popular decision with people like me....ones that will never vote for him. He's lost the independents. Now he just pissed off his liberal base.

If the loss of my job in CF gets rid of Obama then so be it.

Posted by: dirk at March 2, 2010 6:19 PM
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