Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reform, Narrowly Defined

Normal E. “Sandy” McCulloch Jr.:

To reduce the problem to its most basic form, our quality of life depends on education and jobs, and I believe one leads inevitably to the other. Since the early 1970s, my passion has focused on education — both private and public. In 1992, when I turned over the reins of Microfibres Inc. to our son Jim, my wife Dotty and I established a charitable foundation primarily to focus on educational issues. Since that time, we have distributed funds to a wide variety of schools. Our hope has been that many of the innovations and best practices at these institutions would be adopted by the larger public primary and secondary school world...

In the 17 years our foundation has focused on educational challenges, I have never seen the stars in such favorable alignment. I can almost hear that pony whinny.

I'd take September of 2000 over the fall of 2009 any day. Riding a long period of relative peace and prosperity nationally, with a forward-looking, technically astute Vice President leading in the polls, with the first and most energetic, rather than the fourth, reform superintendent in Providence, bringing in RttT sized foundation grants and an influx of administrative talent (building on homegrown administrators, like Fran Gallo (now everyone's favorite as supe of Central Falls), a growing network of successful site-based schools in the district working out sensible and innovative compromises on work rules,hiring, and innovative practices, The Met taking off as a model for cutting-edge schools around the world, and we had a clutch of promising first-generation charter schools.

We had an excellent state-wide technology training program for teachers, we had a reform-minded commissioner with an array of innovations in established under his leadership, from the SALT school surveys and school inspections, to the Rhode Island Writing Assessment (scored by local teachers, the advantages of which were discussed last Friday at the RttT assessment meeting).

Some of the above we still have, some is being phased out or ignored, some is long gone. On the other hand, now we have a superintendent in Providence and a Commissioner at RIDE who are asserting their right to abrogate teacher contracts, and a new law that allows charters to be managed by companies outside RI, free from prevailing wage and pension requirements. So check two for "innovation" in 2009, but it is a very specific type of innovation.

No comments: