February 18, 2011

The Day the Reform Ended

Justin Katz

February third might be considered the day education reform ceased in Rhode Island:

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist wants to push back the deadline for more rigorous high school graduation requirements, and is backing off her proposal that Rhode Island establish a three-tier diploma system.

Gist now says the date on the requirements to get a high school diploma should be pushed back two years, to 2014, to give schools and students more time to prepare. The tougher standards require students to be at least "partially proficient" on state math and English tests or retake the tests and show improvement, among other requirements.

A headline the day after the above suggested continued tough talk, with "Gist says R.I. schools can't postpone improvements," but with the current governor, Board of Regents, and General Assembly, Commissioner Gist is likely to lose teeth, not gain them. The fact is that statewide math scores have only gone up 6% in the past two years, to 28% even "partially proficient," and science scores nudged 3%, to 20%. If improvement continues at that rate, 2014 will still see large numbers of students unable to graduate.

RI Association of School Committees Executive Director Tim Duffy's commentary in the article found at the second link inadvertently illustrates the point:

"We need to put districts on notice that this is the last time the can gets kicked down the road," Duffy said, "because we can't afford to do that to our public school students."

Yeah, right. From participation in local governance and reading of events across the state, I can't say I've observed anything that might be considered a sense of urgency about students "unable to perform simple math problems that most people can figure out in their heads," as the article paraphrases Gist. Why would taking the pressure off them for another two years (with the union's governor in office) change that attitude?

But because so many districts have been lagging in making these changes, it is only fair to give everyone more time to adjust, Duffy said.

Fair to whom? Certainly not to children who are being given diplomas without learning critical material, and certainly not to other students whose diplomas are devalued by broad knowledge that public education in Rhode Island is "lagging."

All that's happened is that complacent administrators, unions, and school committees have bought, with their votes and political contributions, another two years to wait for a miracle change quite apart from anything they're actually doing — much in keeping with the state's budgeting strategy.

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America will NEVER climb out of the toilet without School Choice and a complete end of the failed AFT/NEA schools.
No "tinkering" will do the slightest good.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at February 18, 2011 8:16 AM

If you love your children, send them to private schools. Yes, it will cost a fortune on top of taxes. But they are worth it.

Posted by: Dan at February 18, 2011 12:01 PM

Dan, it depends on the public schools. I am a graduate of Providence Public Schools and I am now completing a doctorate at the University of Pittsbugh. I did go to Classical High School, which makes a big difference, but Classical is a public school (albeit an exam school). I never went to private school and turned out just fine. I was also a public school teacher for 8 years and I will say that the quality of education varies from school to school and classroom to classroom. I have known people who choose to work as parochial school teachers because they couldn't get or keep a public school position, so just saying private is better is not necessarily a fact. When it is time for my daughter to start school, my decision on whether to send her to public school or spring for private will ultimately be dependent upon the quality of the public schools in the community where we end up settling down.

Posted by: Tabetha at February 18, 2011 7:01 PM

Dan, you have to realize most us CAN NOT afford private schools even if we stopped eating.
We need School Choice and the extermination of the NEA and AFT.

Posted by: fu@aol.com at February 18, 2011 7:07 PM


We took our kids out of the cesspool of a public system after our daughter's math grade was a "D" at best but lo and behold...two weeks prior to the end of the school year, she miraculously achieved a "B" grade and was passed on to the next grade. We put both of our daughters into private school and NOW she knows math and is thriving. It's because her current teaachers aren't union, aren't into that damn "work to rule" and they know how to teach instead of just stand there with their hands out looking for money they don't deserve. It does cost a fortune but it's the best money I'll ever spend. At least now they have a chance to become something.

Posted by: Bill at February 20, 2011 12:53 PM
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