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Duncan weighs in on RI’s Race to the Top programs and Providence schools

May 25, 2012

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Photo by Ralph Alswang.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’s happy with the way Rhode Island is using its $75 million Race to the Top Grant. The state has been working on several major initiatives including annual teacher evaluations and curriculum reviews.

Duncan says his staff will sit down with state education officials next week to review their progress.

“Overall we’ve been very pleased with the progress and the commitment to reform in Rhode Island, and we know that work has not always been easy,” Duncan said in a phone interview with RIPR, adding “our hope has always been that work in Rhode Island could have national implications, and I continue to be very hopeful about that.”

When it comes to Providence, where school officials are working on a unique collaboration with teachers’ union officials to turnaround several low performing schools, Duncan says the district still has a ways to go.

“I think they’ve gone through an extraordinarily difficult time but have come out the back end,” Duncan said, referring to threats of mass teacher firings and the departure of Providence Superintendent Tom Brady.

“People say if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger, and I think they have come out of this stronger,” Duncan continued. “Great new superintendent, great union leader, strong board, and I’m very hopeful that Providence with some stability can significantly improve student achievement.”

Duncan met with Providence’s new superintendent, Susan Lusi, and teachers’ union leaders during a conference this week. The event highlighted districts where management and teachers’ unions are collaborating on reforms aimed at raising student achievement.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane Feole permalink
    May 26, 2012 3:44 am

    Arne Duncan is mistaken. The reform initiatives to change evaluation systems of teachers in this state is a sham. It is a lead weight, a sofa too big to get through the door jam, even if you take the moulding off. It is comfortable enough, to believe that by asking unqualified people to transcribe a teacher’s words, manipulate them to fit a rubric, and then “objectively” judge the teacher’s effectiveness based on this and data that can never be deemed reliable because the subjects are different each year, you will discover who is effective and who isn’t. But it is inherently flawed because those evaluating teachers are the one in need of reform. We don’t need teacher evaluation reform. We need administrator, superintendent and, yes, commissioner reform. We need evaluators who have enough content area knowledge, and grade level pedagogy understanding, to accurately measure a teacher’s effectiveness. Don’t tell me that a former elementary school teacher with an administrator’s degree, can evaluate my classroom effectiveness. He cannot. I teacher Advanced Placement senior English, and unless he has a firm grasp of British and American literature, as well as the language of rhetoric he cannot evaluate me because he does not have the literary and rhetorical vocabulary to do so.
    How do I know? – Because I was transcribed as saying “literal interpretations” when in actuality I said “literary interpretation.”
    Take a lesson from high school reform. Start at the top. Hire principals and superintendents and commissioners who have masters’ degrees and Phd’s in education and subject areas, not administration. Take a lesson from business, and hire people who have experience teaching the grades and content they are overseeing. The teaching profession is no longer a good occupation for mothers who want to be home with their own children. It is a career which requires more self-motivated advanced philosophical and pedagogical education and practice than the people who evaluate us. Stanley Morgan wouldn’t hire a CEO who had less practical experience than his/her employees. Who do we advance administrators who have mere administration degrees or superintendent degrees to such positions? If we really want to change education, we need to search for better qualified principals, superintendents and commissioners.



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