Don Roach: Deborah Gist, You Go Girl!
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Teachers, or more appropriately, teachers’ unions have not been happy with Gist as she has sought stricter graduation requirements, performance-based teacher evaluations (novel concept, right?), and lifting the cap on charter schools amongst other “radical” ideas.
I’m not trying to say that Gist is perfect, but as a parent I’m glad that she is looking at students, teachers, administrators, and parents and saying one word, “more”. Students must do more to demonstrate their educational proficiency. Is this simply because Gist sits on a high hill somewhere looking to demoralize students? Oh contraire my friends, in my opinion she’s pushing such strict requirements to ensure our kids aren’t left behind in an increasingly competitive job market.
Teachers must do more to ensure that students are prepared for the real world and cannot simply rely on seniority to get the most coveted classroom assignments. If you’re a teacher and you’re reading this, can you please explain to me why it is better for children to be taught by teachers who have seniority but may not have the best skills to teach a particular class? Seriously, what’s wrong with the concept with best person does the job? Obviously, we’re not a perfectly meritocratic society but in concept, what do RI teachers have against a system where the best teachers get their first choice of jobs not those who have the advantage of being born a bit earlier than some of the others?
Gist also won $125 million in federal funding as part of the federal government’s Race to the Top program and $125 million is nothing to sneeze at in Rhode Island. What I like about Gist is that she is focused on educating students and not unwilling to take risks to rankle teachers or students or parents in the pursuit of ensuring that her department educates as many Rhode Island children as possible.
We need more people in power with this type of attitude. We need more people who are more interested in taking a stand for what they believe to be right then beholden to whatever lobby that put them in power or is helping them maintain power. Speaking of…
A few years ago I posed a question to NEA RI Executive Director, Bob Walsh, “Do you support greater accountability for teachers' performance? Why or why not?” His simple answer was “I support accountability for teachers.” He then went onto to talk about how evaluations weren’t standardized across districts and that, “I do remain highly skeptical of the use of student test scores in individual teacher evaluations, and believe that concept will fall under its own weight.”
After posting that article, Walsh told me, paraphrasing, he didn’t like how I interpreted his comments but to me the teacher’s lobby has consistently been unwilling to budge and try new things from what I’ve seen and read from them over the years. What appears paramount to them is keeping their benefits and their jobs, the students always seem secondary. Listen, I have children in the school system so don’t take my comments as casting a wide swath at teachers, I’m not. What I am saying is that teacher reps and stories seem to almost always center around contract disputes, railing against stricter standards, and the like.
And should the teachers’ union in this state wish to continue to play that game, then I’m glad we have a champion in the form of Deborah Gist who will continue to fight for the future of students.
You go, girl!
Don Roach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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