August 2, 2009

Juxtaposing Rhode Island’s Student Achievement to Teacher Compensation Rankings and a Plan to Make it Worse

Monique Chartier

Further to the dissatisfaction that Justin expressed yesterday with remarks made by Rhode Island's new Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist at the RISC Summer meeting ...

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT – Brushing the bottom 20% nationally

ALEC 2008 Report on American Education [PDF]
Ranks RI academic achievement at fortieth out of fifty first. Note that this is up one step from Rhode Island’s 2007 ALEC ranking [PDF] of forty first.

US Chamber of Commerce "Leaders & Laggards" [PDF]

“Academic Achievement”. “Academic Achievement of Low-Income and Minority Students”. “Rigor of Standards”. “Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness”. In all of these categories, Rhode Island gets D's & F's.

TEACHER PAY – Brushing the top 20% nationally

The John Locke Foundation's “Annual Report on Teacher Pay” [PDF] compiles a state by state comparison of teacher salaries, adjusted for pension contribution, experience and cost of living. Rhode Island ranks 11th highest, though in that same report, the NEA pegs Rhode Island at 10th highest.

In a related category, the US Census Bureau’s 2009 report on “Public Education Finances” [PDF] notes that Rhode Island has the seventh highest “Spending on Instruction”.

I highlight this significant gap not to pick on teachers but to pick on school committee members, city/town councilors and executives (mayors) who have, for the last ten-fifteen years, fallen for the trap of negotiating new contracts that build on teacher contract achievements around the state but not on the academic achievement of the students within their own municipality.

Enter now Bill S0569 [PDF], brought to our attention by commenter BobC, who referred to it as "Caruolo on Steroids". It would further dilute the responsibility of school committees to facilitate a good education by placing greater distance, if that’s even possible, between education dollars and students.

Some low points of the bill:

> It would prevent school committees from applying for waivers of regulations.

> It would mandate that any court order pertaining to programs and funding obtained from a lawsuit in Superior Court would be in effect for three years, not one.

> In the event of a dispute over the school budget, it would order the usurpation of certain of the powers and responsibilities of both the school committee and the city/town council by the installation of a special master who would conduct, at his or her leisure because no timeframe is specified, exhaustive and expensive fact-finding mostly of items well known by the committee and council. The expenses of said special master would be funded not from the school budget, but equally from the school and municipal budgets.

This blatantly ant-child, anti-education bill is presumably offered to counter some recent abolish-Caruolo rumblings. “Let’s compromise and let Caruolo stand as is.”

Any such “compromise” should be rejected out of hand. Yes, student achievement in Rhode Island has been slowly improving. Does anyone contend that it is a result of the Caruolo Act? In fact, not only must Caruolo in any form be rescinded, but in view of the progress rate of education achievement in Rhode Island, legislation needs to be passed mandating that municipalities begin tying compensation to student achievement.

The status quo of student achievement in the bottom twenty percent and compensation in the top twenty percent will only change when education dollars are expended with children rather than adults in mind.

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Perhaps someone other than I has the enrgy to look into this. I have spoken with teachers in the Southwest and South, they make about 1/2 (about 35,000) of what we are accustomed to in New England. Does anyone know if they are trailing us in academics?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 3, 2009 6:01 PM
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