May 20, 2010

Teachers Skeptical Over Race to the Top

Marc Comtois

As we've learned, the state American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union has decided to support Race to the Top (RTTT). It isn't too much of a leap to see the link between the recent Central Falls agreement and the AFT sign on, but there also can be little doubt that rank-and-file teachers remain skeptical about RTTT, particularly the teacher evaluation component. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was in Warwick last week to speak about RTTT and it was clear that the prospects of a new evaluation system seems to be causing the most heartburn in the teacher ranks.

What teachers wanted to know Thursday evening was how they would be evaluated and whether such measures would be fair.

Toll Gate English teacher Darlene Netcoh asked if she would be held accountable for the performance of teachers who shaped students since they entered the system in kindergarten?

"What are these hardworking teachers not doing," queried Toll Gate history teacher Kate Rauch.

Netcoh's concerns are valid, which is why any student performance component of a teacher evaluation system has to account for the "raw material" the teacher is starting with. In other words, each student will have a baseline performance score (or something like that), which will be used for comparison at the end of the year to determine progress.

Teachers and union leaders have also complained that there haven't been enough details given out regarding a new teacher evaluation system. As Gist explained, it hasn't been developed because RIDE wants to include teachers in the development process. As she said, if she had developed an evaluation system without teacher input, she would be accused of forcing a system on them. More fundamental is that the reason she hasn't started that process is because she hopes to use RTTT funds to develop that system. However, as she has said, whether or not RI gets RTTT funds, a new statewide teacher evaluation standard will be developed by 2011.

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I don't understand the hangup over teacher evaluations. Every teacher knows how they should be evaluated, so they should just sit down and document the process that they use.

Posted by: Patrick at May 20, 2010 1:31 PM

I've read both Tennessee's submission (a RTTT winner along with Delaware) and Rhode Island's submission, and Tennessee's was far superior. TN simply had more systems in place for longer periods of time which resulted in far more data being available to use in assessments and evaluations - a key requirement for RTTT funds.

They also had non-partisan buy-in from everyone from the governor down to the dog catcher, with 100% participation from the unions from the very beginning.

TN, a lowly southern state, simply ran rings around the elites in charge of RI schools.

Posted by: oz at May 20, 2010 3:44 PM

It seems Gist can’t even write a basic speech to the GA without using $10,000.00 “Ghost Writers”. Is she using “Ghost Writers” to write the RI Education standards and teacher evaluation?

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2010 1:53 AM

You're upset that she used a speechwriter using private funds? Must have been a slow day out on the islands.

It would seem that writing a speech is a poor use of her time right now. If someone else wants to fund a speechwriter for her, so she can focus on the job at hand (improving RI's schools) then that is a proper focus on priorities.

Posted by: Patrick at May 21, 2010 8:31 AM


As a manager of federal systems across 11 states, world-wide manager for a fortune 500 company based in RI and a state-wide systems administrator making monthly or yearly presentations and giving reports comes with the job.

Nobody ever wrote a speech, report or presentation for me. I performed my 40 hr. week job and wrote my own speeches, reports and presentations at home in draft form. I then had my sectary write them up formally and make any corrections she thought were needed.

What I am upset about is Gist not being able to put her own words and thoughts down on paper representing RIDE as commissioner of education without using a “ghost writer”.

It will be questionable every time she submits a document or speech in her name to the public or statehouse that she is the true author or was it written out of state.

Posted by: Ken at May 21, 2010 8:56 PM
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