public school reform

The State Board of Education discussed a contract extension for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist last night but took no action. The conversation took place behind closed doors, which is standard practice for personnel matters.

At least 200 people attended the public portion of the board meeting, some to testify in opposition to Gist and others to speak on a controversial measure to arm state college police. The board passed the measure on campus police, allowing each state university to make its own decision about arming campus police forces.

Legislation up for a vote Tuesday in the State Senate would allow school districts to shorten the school year, if they make the school day longer.

The bill says districts should be able to scrap the current requirement of 180 days as long as they have the equivalent number of hours. Assuming the school day lasts six hours, that works out to 1,080 hours.

Charter Schools in Central Falls, Pawtucket and Cumberland will have $10 million to make building improvements, thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation is providing the money in the form of low or no-interest loans, to increase the number of charter schools seats available for Central Falls students.

The number of Rhode Island Families hoping to get their children into Charter Schools continues to increase, according to the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools. The group is reporting a 20 percent jump in applications for 2013 for a total of 7,900 applications, up from 6,500 applications in 2012.

Rhode Island may finally have a confirmed Board of Education following a vote Tuesday at the State House. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the seven remaining appointees for the board, which will oversee public schools, colleges and universities.

The nominees include proposed board chair, Eva Marie Mancuso and former Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members Patrick Guida and Karin Forbes. Four other members of the 11-person board have already received Senate approval.

State education Commissioner Deborah Gist is slated to discuss Rhode Island’s controversial teacher evaluations during a panel discussion this morning at the Fordham Institute in Washington, DC, a conservative public policy think-tank.

Relations appear tense between the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, one of two teachers’ unions in Rhode Island, and State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.

Gist sent a letter to Superintendents at the end of January reminding them that state regulations require staffing decisions to be based on performance, rather than the number of years a teacher has been on the job, a practice common in many schools.

A group calling itself the Providence Student Union will ask for an end to high stakes testing this week. Starting with the class of 2014, Rhode Island students will not be allowed to graduate unless they get a score of "partially procficent" on the standardized test known as the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP).


Gist: Mandatory school safety plans unlikely

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist speaks directly to teachers about a controversial new evaluation system. The video first appeared on YouTube earlier this month.

More boys are dropping out of school than girls, and the disparity is greater in Rhode Island and Connecticut than anywhere else in the country, according to a new report from the Federal Department of Education.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says her plan for improving Rhode Island’s public schools will not change, even if she is reporting to a new board of education.

The leadership change is part of the state budget that won approval last night from Senate lawmakers. It has already gotten a green light from the House of Representatives.