Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rhode Island Getting Reformier?

Deborah Gist, the "state superintendent" in DC, is going to be our new education commissioner. It is an interesting step, from being state superintendent of what is really a fragment of a city and not a state at all, to being commissioner of the smallest state. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions. Pro: teacher for 8 years. Con: Broad-ian. The most certain thing is she'll get along well with Brady below and Arne above. I'm truly not sure what it is in her power to do; she's got an opportunity to redefine the position. McWalters was here a long, long time. Time will tell what a new up and comer can do with the position.

One thing that bugs the crap out of me is that Providence and Rhode Island seem to be enamored with hiring education leaders from the South. I don't get that. We don't like anything else about the South, why would we want our schools to be run by people from the South?

In other local news, in a small victory for sanity, the plan to impose a three period day on small high schools has already been scrapped and replaced with a plan to impose a six period day on small high schools, undoing the established four period blocks at several of them.


Dan Meyer said...

From where, again, do you get the pedagogical unsoundness of a 110-minute period.

I don't have research, but having taught both, it's far preferable for me not to have to deal with five openers and five closers every day. Rather, I get the students up to their active heart rate only three times every day, and then we're at work for the rest of the period.

You may be right that a five-period day is cheaper, but I don't see how. Is the seat-hour requirement any less from one schedule to the other?

Tom Hoffman said...

I'm not saying 110 minute periods are inherently pedagogically unsound. I would say that the preponderance of experience and research indicates that arbitrarily imposing long class periods without a clear rationale, appropriate curriculum and pedagogy, time to prepare for the change, etc. does not work.

In this case there were obvious drawbacks compared to a four period day, including loss of common planning time and many teachers having no break every other day. Once you get up to 90 minutes, you really can fit most activities into that time (and at Feinstein they do a lot of cross-disciplinary projects, so often the kids are really working on a project all morning or afternoon if it is appropriate, although that will mostly end after this year...). Also, math and English classes were still going to be 50 minutes, so you'd still be screwed.

In this case, it was just a dumb rookie move by a new administrator. It was just stupid.

Oh, and it appears that the six period day is cheaper than the four period day just in terms of getting the maximum class hours out of your teachers.

Chris Lehmann said...

Are any big cities left that *aren't* run by Broad? I mean, seriously... this has been an almost complete take over of urban education, and it's gone almost completely unnoticed.

Hello? NY Times? Anyone?

Tom Hoffman said...

When the history is written of early 21st century educational philanthropy, the Broad Institute will go down as the best investment -- in terms of influence, at least.