Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dumping Gist and Heightening the Contradictions

Bob Plain at RI Future has a good rundown on the state of play leading up to the likely renewal of Deborah Gist's contract as Education Commissioner. I'm all in favor of dumping Gist, but it is an awkward time to do it. We've got a newly reconstituted Board of Education which does not seem to have a charge to change direction on education policy overall. Or maybe there is a quiet voting majority for change, but if so, it is quiet. Maybe insiders know Gist doesn't have the votes on the board and this push is designed to provide political cover and justification, but I don't think that's what's going on.

As it is, we're just getting to the point where you can say Gist's policies have had enough time to start showing real results, and the lack of serious improvement in outcomes is just starting to become clear. We're also right in the middle of this graduation requirements mess.

If the alternative is just a new Broadie following the same playbook, I'd rather keep Gist. If we're really ready to change direction, I don't think the political foundation is built yet.

I'd rather have this settled through next year's gubernatorial election -- although there is a real risk all the candidates will still be pro-reform, since Chafee has been so... patient with Gist.

The most important point here is that Deb Gist isn't Omar from the Wire; this isn't a "You come at the king, you best not miss" situation.

Even if she survives this, Gist and her allies will come out weaker than at any point in the past four years.

I would note that I am susceptible to wanting to wait for events to "heighten the contradiction," for example, by leaving Gist in place and letting the new graduation policy controversy fully come to a head over the course of the next year.I have to try to resist that because I don't think it works as a tactic and hurts a lot of vulnerable students in the meantime.

But in thinking about it, it does seem like a lot of reformers, Gist included, have that same revolutionary tendency themselves. It is like they'd rather take risks to draw the teachers' unions into a decisive battle than collaborate and actually improve schools. I don't think "heightening the contradictions" is working out for them either.

1 comment:

Sean said...

What's the alternative vision? Things are grim man.

The high school grad requirement is irrelevant after the class of 2014. So it's at best a nuisance, at worst a life-altering event for lots of kids in Prov., CF, Pawtucket. Nice!

The evaluation system has turned a simple premise - getting feedback on your teaching- into a bureaucratic nightmare.

Most labor contracts are absurdly prohibitive and block even the most common-sense ideas (e.g. common planning time).

SLOs have distorted incentives wildly. Not only is there "teaching to the test," there's "teaching to poorly-made, unreliable tests."

The Common Core. Ugh. Just teach what you want to teach. Here's your rationale: "I did a 'close read' of the standards and came up with this interpretation..."

It's a mess and it's discouraging.