Time To Lower The Drawbridge in Rhode Island?
June 1, 2008
When you're talking about education reform in Rhode Island, the reason that the grass always seems greener on the other side of the state line in any direction is that a host of state elected officials have decided that fields of brown, dying grass is good enough for the state's children. Providence Journal education columnist Julia Steiny today notes that politicians are the ones keeping Rhode Island communities from inviting successful school programs to enliven a stale status quo:
Our laws fiercely protect Rhode Island’s educational status quo, as though it were a real treasure like Narragansett Bay or our historical architecture. The protectionist laws make it impossible for outside providers to do business in the state. (One could argue that the state laws make it impossible even for local schools to do business effectively. Certain Rhode Island charter schools are now being crushed by our protectionist culture.)
Take as only one example Rhode Island’s General Law 16-13-6 which cements teacher tenure, seniority and “bumping” into place, leaving Rhode Island administrators little if any control over the quality of their staff. No school providers from saner states can possibly assure us that they can be successful here if they can’t retain the stability of their staff and let ineffective teachers go, when necessary. Longtime Rhode Island residents have been drinking the protectionist Kool-Aid for so long they forget what effective school governance might look like.
Lower the drawbridge and let some of the proven-performers like KIPP, Achievement First, Green Dot, and others come in and liven things up a bit, Steiny writes.
Keep your eye on a group of activist mayors in the state, led by Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee, who are trying to open the door to innovation. As Steiny notes, they are up against folks who have been "drinking the protectionist Kool-Aid for so long they have forgotten what effective school governance might look like."
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