Taveras Calls Teacher Firings a "Mistake"

Jul 9, 2014

Speaking Tuesday night at a special edition of RIPR's Political Roundtable, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said he made "a very public mistake" when he fired every Providence public school teacher early on in his tenure as mayor.

At the time, Taveras said the firings would give the city flexibility in the midst of a financial crisis.

Taveras followed his mea culpa moment with a challenge to fellow democrats Gina Raimondo, Clay Pell and Todd Giroux to discuss a mistake they have made and how they handled it. (They only sort of took the bait.) The candidates were participating in a debate on RIPR in the run up to the gubernatorial primary.

Democrat Clay Pell distinguished himself from front-runners Taveras and Raimondo with strong opposition to linking standardized test scores to a high school diploma. Pell, who has been endorsed by NEARI, one of Rhode Island's two teachers' unions, spoke at length about high stakes testing, reiterating his position that public schools put too much energy into test scores, at the expense of the arts and foreign languages.

Raimondo, whose children attend public schools in Providence, said she agrees that children today are "over-tested," but she added that testing can provide important information.

When pressed, both she and Taveras said they support the idea of using testing as part of the high school graduation requirement. They also said they support the introduction of new standards known as the Common Core and the test known as PARCC, which is designed to accompany the standards.

Taveras weighed in on a new state law that requires annual teacher evaluations for new and struggling teachers but not for the vast majority of public school teachers, who received top ratings in the state's new teacher evaluation system. He supports the law.

Taveras got a chuckle from the audience and the other democrats on the panel when he explained that he believes the law puts the right emphasis on teachers who need help.

"Look, I've said this before. No one dislikes a bad second grade teacher as much as a good third grade teacher."