What's wrong with this picture?
On May 20, in Moore, Oklahoma, rescue workers clawing through debris searching for survivors of a devastating tornado found a teacher sheltering three small children with her body in a destroyed school. Around the same time, some 1661 miles away, a gathering of 600 teachers in Cranston, R.I. were whining about too much paperwork in their efforts to oust Education Commissioner Deborah Gist from her job. What’s wrong with this picture?
How these educators could miss the optics of their demonstration while the heroism of their counterparts in the South was unfolding is hard to conceive. Perhaps it is because their self-centeredness makes them stare only at their respective belly buttons instead of the big picture. Nobody outside of them gives a darn about how much paperwork they have. Plenty of folks in the private sector have more paperwork to do on more days, and for more hours.
The fact is that the Commissioner is the best thing to happen to Rhode Island education. She wants a sheepskin from high school to mean something so admission directors at universities don’t chortle when there is an applicant from this state trying to get into a place of higher learning. Everyone should be striving to bring children the joy and satisfaction of real accomplishment.
The attack on Ms. Gist is disingenuous. An open letter from a purported educator named “Mary Teixeira” making its way around media outlets filets the Commissioner for her supposed disrespect of educators by putting them down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since that has been a rap for some time, on more than one occasion I have questioned the Commissioner on "Newsmakers" to see if this were true. She could have easily directed blame for the educational morass onto teachers, the unions, and the multi-page contracts filled with teacher prerogatives and very little about children’s education. She never took the bait. She steadfastly backed them up as professionals.
Another attack on her was her use of the New England Common Assessment (NECAP) as an evaluative tool of a child’s mastery of a subject. First of all, there are a half-dozen other tests that can be used by a district. Children don’t have to show anything other than progress to graduate. The biggest irony is that the use of tests as one barometer was not instituted by her but was a mandatory gauge by the department of education before Ms. Gist set foot in Rhode Island.
The real ire from the teachers was evident by the time spent grousing about Commissioner Gist's audacity in promoting the concept that teachers should be evaluated. Unlike the rest of the public who work in the private market where evaluations are a fact of life for promotions and pay raises, the attendees at the rally want the automatic perks of being a teacher unchallenged, no matter how badly Johnny can't read or do math. The one saving grace from the hootenanny last week was that only 600 out of thousands of Rhode Island teachers attended.
Governor Lincoln Chafee will soon show whether “Chafee can be trusted” in his decision to support her reappointment. He can be a hack and tool of the unions, or he can be a statesman. Which will it be, Governor?