February 24, 2010

A Day in the Life of RI Education

Marc Comtois

A look at the papers today gives quite a little snapshot of the sorry state of education in Rhode Island. Central Falls is firing it's high school teachers as a way to deal with a chronically under-performing school (with the blessing of the State Education Commissioner Gist and U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan) because the teachers union didn't want to put in a couple more hours a week at $30/hr; Cranston is cutting school sports and other activities instead of cutting where it would hurt adults; the budget crunch is prompting West Warwick and Cumberland to look at school consolidation--something worth studying on its own, not as part of crisis management; Providence held a meeting about their troubled schools and all of 30 or so people came; nor did anyone show at a funding formula hearing at the State House; finally, apparently Pawtucket has been spending about $10 million a year over budget on their schools. Union games, knee-jerk solutions, playing on the emotions of parents, parental apathy and budget mismanagement. All predictable and preventable if only more stakeholders (which is pretty much every RI taxpayer!) had the will to make the necessary changes.

Thankfully, we seem to have an education Commissioner who is willing to follow up her rhetoric with actions and lead us forward with new ideas and a fresh attitude. It's up to us to support her (as some are) by backing her proposals and demanding accountability and change in council and committee meetings. The alternative is more of the same stories, day after day.

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I thought it was very interesting and disappointing to see two stories in the ProJo last night, side by side, where 600-700 protesters came out against the actions in Central Falls. However in Providence, where they are beginning the same process, where Superintendent Brady is looking to start the discussion with the community, all of 7 parents showed up.

So 700 show up after the fact to complain, but only 7 show up in the beginning to work on the solutions.

A society of Little Red Hens?

Posted by: Patrick at February 24, 2010 2:04 PM


You forgot to include all the teachers at the RI School for the Deaf received layoff notices (about 35 teachers) because they do not meet the professional qualifications of the No Child Left Behind Act.

It seems the State of RI required a certification for teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing, a certificate that emphasizes special skills in communication but does not address particular areas of academic study.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act certified educators must show expertise in the content of the academic fields they teach such as English, math, sciences or history.

So now all the CF High School teachers are fired and all the teachers at the RI School for the Deaf are laid off both State of RI run schools!

Posted by: Ken at February 24, 2010 5:19 PM

I teach (still) at the HS in Central Falls. I've never been a union guy because of my raging conservative roots. (Here comes the but.) The problem I see here (not you guys) is people that believe the end justifies the means. Should the crappy teachers have been fired. Absolutely! But the most important piece that is left out is the illegality of the firings. Every member of the regents and board of trustees signed that contract last year. As well as the super and the commissioner. Now it's not good enough? Now that BHO is dangling 1 billion dollars out there it's OK to ignore whatever law that the feel gets in their way.

How about we treat your gun rights the same way. What about privacy rights? The teacher tenure laws are gross! But it's the law. I should have been put on an action plan according to law. i wasn't. Should that action plan be 120 days? I think it should be two weeks. But it's not.

When we let the end justify the means we begin to behave like the progressives.

Posted by: dirk at February 24, 2010 6:17 PM


The No Child Left Behind Act is not something that happened over night. As bad as the law is written and based on faulty data it is still an enacted law requiring educators to obtain professional certification in their subject matter on your own time or via school department offered courses.

The State of RI Department of Education, Board of Regents and RI College (States Teaching Collage) also bear responsibility for not keeping up with educational advancements, methods of teaching, certifications and proper testing and a clear forward looking vision. Some of the professors at RIC have not stepped into a public school and taught at grade level in over 30 years.

The State of RI took over the CF School Department an it's my understanding Superintendent Frances Gallo has been on the job 4 years. It's also my understanding that including the latest firings CF High School has had 6 principals in the last 4 years.
A school as troubled as CF High School is with all the transit students and ESL students there has to be continuity in the administration or nothing will be accomplished. It troubles me to find out about how many principles have been replaced in CF High School in such a short time. Evidently there has been no administrative leadership at the school.

However that should have made the teachers pull together even more so for the students and I understand that CF High School has made progress in math, reading and graduation rates based on your CF baseline and not the so call RI one baseline fits all.

Good luck in the future. Just remember there is a learning process to all negative life events.

Posted by: Ken at February 24, 2010 7:09 PM

Dirk, there is a world of difference between the CF teachers contract and the Second Amendment. One is a contract subject to being superseded by other laws, and the other is a natural human right enshrined and guaranteed by the Constitution.

Posted by: BobN at February 24, 2010 7:27 PM

See this is what I like about this blog. No trashing so I appreciate that.

Just a couple of details though. Since I started in 1995 there have been 27 administrators at the high school. In the beginning there was order. The discipline has eroded to the point we have students urinating in classroom trashcans,consuming alcohol during school hours and so on...all without consequences. It's an urban school where there needs to be consequences but the Dept of Ed nails us for our suspension rate. They're working against us not with us. For the past two years the RIDOE has mandated that we accept teachers from the RI Fellows program and Teach for American. These are 15 week programs where journalist can become a math teacher. They've brought in English teachers who can't speak English. Then our school is evaluated by RIDOE and they visit these teachers who are a mess. That's a reflection on the teachers when there isn't a administrator in the building that would have agreed to hire them. And these are the programs they will be recruiting teacher.

We have two schedules running on one building. This results in students repeating courses they have already pasted. I have a student who has taken the same class three times and passed it each time. Three years ago we had 300 students with no class schedules until Nov. Some sat in study hall all day for two months.

Our terminations were no per federal regualtions. NCLB mandates changes and reforms through the negotiation process...sounds like NEA and AFT helped write that part. OUr terminations were based on state law. The decision to terminate the teachers was made last Sept. They should have evaluated teachers at that point and terminated the ones who suck. No problem with that. The reality is every single teacher was evaluated over the last two years, per the RIDOE. Every teacher with a poor eval was let go. So all that remain have fine evals. So are those not good enough? They were conducted by the current admins. The failure to evaluate and place poor performing teachers on actions plans, and then fire them is not legal. The plan presented to the union included six points. The last was the evaluation piece. Since the deadline for termination notices is March 1st they would have fired the teachers anyway, then conduct the evals. Does that make sense? At one point the union offered to take no compensation in return for dropping the mass termination piece until the contract runs out. Even though the termination piece wasn't even legal. The offer of 100% retention reported in the Projo was never put on the table. In addition, the board of trustees members violated negotiation procedures set forth by law. So things aren't as clean as the Projo reports.

So after all this what do I think. Shut the DISTRICT down and bus them to Licoln, Cumberland and ..... I know it will never happen but at this point the building is toxic.

As for me...I'm set. There are many opportunities for me. I've done enough work for other districts and the state. Not worried. One door closes, another one opens.

Posted by: dirk at February 24, 2010 9:03 PM

And BobN. Did't mean to come off like Sarah Brady.

I value the second amendment more than any other birth right. It absolutely cannot be compared to a teachers' contract. But contract law is a crucial part of it's backbone. I was just making a point that some people accept certain improper tactics to achieve something that may or may not be right. We expect people to honor contractual mortgage agreements but embrace the fact that cities and towns in RI violate your right to carry a handgun. (Even though it's a civil entitlement in this state.)

Posted by: dirk at February 24, 2010 9:14 PM

Dirk, as somebody who looked into the Teaching Fellows program (for SPED English), I'm curious as to how many teachers CFHS got from the program and how they worked out.
You had a journalist teaching math? The old joke about journalists is they chose that profession because they suck at math.

Posted by: rhody at February 24, 2010 11:07 PM


When I lived and worked in Woonsocket, I use to do annual safety inspections of the schools. Every time we inspected Woonsocket Middle School we'd find regular doors or fire doors off their hinges, holes punched in the walls, graffiti and a lot of other safety stuff that was out of place.

It was later found out the principal during the start of each semester would hold an assembly and read the students their rights as what was and what was not punishable if caught in the act on school grounds.

The kids were taking him and every teacher to heart!

The general public, news media and pot stirring special interests love a bad story to point the finger at why little angel Johnny or little angel Ann is not passing their grades in school. Yes I contend they are angels when they are with mom and dad but put them with 15 other angels who know you can't physically touch them and see where it goes! Don't forget, when they get home there is soccer, ice skating, gymnastics, little league baseball, Pop Warner football, ballet, piano lessons, equestrian, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, archery, marksmanship, sailing, swimming, surfing, YMCA, scouts, girl scouts and then cell phones, TV, MTV, INTERNET, Xbox, Wii, just hanging out with friends, dating, shopping and then maybe some homework!

Must be all the teacher's fault! Yes there are some bad teachers but how did they get there? RIDOE, school principal, the local school administration and also if they attended RIC all on the State of RI watch and standards.

I have taught a special 3rd grade class in North Kingstown and for the Foxborough School Department High School night school for a number of years. so I know what it can be like to be in the classroom. I've also authored and taught a class at NASA, US Naval War College, US Navy commands and the Rhode Island Army National Guard. I am not a professional teacher by trade.

My wife a professional educator taught Special Education, 1st grade and 2nd grade for 35 years in RI, was selected by the Ministry of Japan to represent the USA in education to Japan with all expenses paid for 6 weeks to teach the Japanese teachers how to teach USA style. She also authored a state-wide curriculum for K-6 on Historic Preservation, a state-wide National Geographic consulting Educator, sate on the Board of Directors and a educational consultant for the RI Children's Museum and attended various Colleges and Universities across the USA during the summers taking classes to expand her professional development before she died.

My aunt was a professor educator of child psychology at Brown University and I use to help her set up laboratory tests for the babies and children when I was in high school.

Based on your accretion of 1995 to 2010 years that means in 15 years there have been 27 principals at CFHS! You have to be blind, dumb and your ears blocked not to notice that trend. What is RIDOE thinking?

One word of advice I have for you, don't burn any bridges not matter how small they may seem to be.

However, make sure before all CFHS teachers leave they have compiled the current baseline math, reading and graduation rates that have been achieved! This is so you can compare a year from now with hard facts and evidence.

Look at the brighter side, with all new teachers (hopefully with 50% current rehired) and CFHS not meeting standards and probably dropping in math, English and graduation rates because too many new teachers that don't know the students are in the school plus with a whole new administration that does not understand the community there will be no other choice but to point the finger at the next logical cause for this embarrassment to RIDOE because RIDOE took over the administration of CF School Department.

Fire the people that made the first decision to fire all the teachers; CF Supt. Frances Gallo, CF Board of Trustees and State Education Commissioner Gist.

Posted by: Ken at February 25, 2010 2:32 AM

Ken, Some great points. To date we have about 6 teachers from the fellows program. Pawtucket has had more, but has fired all but one or two.

As for the super, I don't blame her. She came up with a fair plan for the most part. It was the commissioner and board that were out of touch. We the union refused to sign on the commissioner should have imposed the model. She should back the super, not demand massive changes and then let her take a beating everyday. I'll shoot out more details later.

Posted by: dirk at February 25, 2010 6:31 AM
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