education reform

A California judge has struck down the state's teacher tenure and seniority system, ruling it denies students their fundamental right to a quality education.

The LA Times reports the judge appeared to accept most of the prosecution's main arguments, including the idea that teachers can be fairly evaluated using student test scores. The paper also notes the judge rejected defense claims that teacher quality compares favorably to workforce quality in other fields.

Concerns about public education in China are fueling an increasing interest in alternative schools like Waldorf education. The trend is profiled in a fascinating New Yorker article now on newsstands.

Three years after a state order to dramatically overhaul Central Falls High School, a new report finds evidence of progress. The Education Alliance at Brown University conducted the study, which finds school culture and parent involvement have improved significantly.

The graduation rate at Central Falls High is up from 48 percent in 2009 to 70 percent last year. Superintendent of Central Falls Schools Fran Gallo says it took an all-out effort from school staff to keep students from dropping out.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

It’s October, and that means students across Rhode Island are filling in bubbles on standardized tests. The annual use of testing in math and English has become a controversial tool for rating schools, and making decisions about high school diplomas, and it will soon be part of teacher evaluations too. One researcher who started out supporting standardized testing now says its part of the problem in public schools. Diane Ravitch has become one of the strongest voices in the national debate and she spoke at the University of Rhode Island last night.

As Rhode Island debates high school diplomas tied to test scores, a prominent critic of standardized testing comes to make her case at the University of Rhode Island. Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is scheduled to speak this evening as part of URI's honors colloquium on education.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has turned down a request from students for a public debate over high stakes testing. The invitation came from the Providence Student Union, a student advocacy group operating in Providence Public Schools.

The group plans to hold a protest vigil at the Department of Education with candles, dirges and other symbols of mourning. Organizers say the demonstration is meant as a “tongue in cheek display of mourning for the expected ‘death’ of Education Commissioner Gist’s reputation.”

There’s a meaty agenda on tap this week at the State Board of Education. The group is scheduled to vote Thursday on a controversial proposal to allow police to carry guns on state college campuses. The board is also scheduled to vote on adopting new science standards and consider a contract extension for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.

Rhode Island’s two teachers’ unions are holding a forum for teachers to discuss their dissatisfaction with new policies in the state’s public schools.

Teachers have complained about the pace of changes under State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, and they are particularly concerned about new annual teacher evaluations, which include test scores as one measure of teacher effectiveness. The teachers have asked the state to slow down implementation of the evaluations, saying they are time consuming and need adjustment.

Rhode Island is one of 26 states that have promised to consider new science guidelines known as the Next Generation Science Standards. The standards were developed by the same organization that created the Common Core, a group of national standards many states including Rhode Island are now adopting for Math and English.

Business leaders are coming out in support of Deborah Gist, the state’s controversial education commissioner. The Providence Journal reports that two dozen business organizations have asked the State Board of Education to renew Gist’s contract, which is currently under review.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist urged lawmakers to pass a series of bills aimed at improving school safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting during her State of Education speech on Tuesday. She also urged passage of the governor’s budget which increases funding for public schools, colleges and universities.

A bill scheduled for debate Wednesday on Smith Hill would make student test scores no more than one third of a teacher’s annual evaluation. The bill’s sponsor is Senator Michael McCaffrey, a democrat from Warwick. The measure is slated for a hearing this afternoon in the Senate Education Committee.

Hearings on the bill that would repeal the “Caruolo Act” are scheduled begin Tuesday at the State House.

The “Caruolo Act,” enacted in 1995, allows local school committees to sue their towns for more funding.

Representative Patricia Morgan (R Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) who introduced the bill speaks from experience when describing what she sees as the act’s potentially negative effects.

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison about the progress the Ocean State is making in education.

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Stop by the Providence Athenaeum at 6 p.m. tonight! We'll be discussing how schools are changing to prepare students for 21st Century jobs.

I'm looking forward to a spirited conversation about what skills students will need as technology quickly transforms the world around us. We'll explore the value of a liberal arts degree, changes to curriculum in K-12 schools and what employers are seeking and finding in Rhode Island graduates. Join us!

The panelists are: