Michael Marra is a teacher of history and economics and asserts that Providence schools are not the only schools in need of improvement. His focus is on teacher contracts, which need to be modified to foster good teaching and diminish poor performance.
Advocates for school choice can feel like they’re getting stuck, but a lesson from the Second Amendment movement might help them find new support.
Powerful union head Randi Weingarten has no problem getting rough-and-tumble with the education commissioner, and Rhode Island students need somebody willing to do the same for them.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 2, included talk about:
- The degree of confidence in the state government to contain a contagious disease.
- The effect of distrust on public perception of the Veterans Home debacle.
- The meaning of Weingarten’s texts to Infante-Green.
- The ubiquitous Mr. Nee.
Recently, two prominent Rhode Island politicians have publicly supported our Center’s long-time policy idea – even echoing our own language – to advance educational freedom for Providence families and all parents across our state.
For years, behind the scenes, I have been advising politicians and candidates – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – on the benefits of educational scholarship accounts (ESAs).
Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green is right to worry that adult agendas will derail any chance of reforming our system.
A Brown professor who takes to Twitter to insist he’d fail a retired Harvard professor is sending a signal about what he considers elite universities to be for.
Some days watching the news can seem like a punishment because there is little that reflects common sense.
Perhaps as rationalization for his willingness to accommodate socialists to defeat President Trump, Gary Sasse appears to be willing to play along with progressives incrementalism.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 3, included talk about:
- Raimondo’s anti-Trump special-interest PAC.
- Will the new Providence superintendent earn his pay?
- Everybody could be right, but is wrong, on the Convention Center.
- RI gambling giants’ form a super-crony organization.
A familiar subject floated through Rhode Island’s news cycle again last week when Warwick schools Superintendent Philip Thornton reported to his city’s school committee that the district should do something about teacher absenteeism:
Two schools — Wyman Elementary and E.G. Robertson Elementary — have chronic absenteeism rates of 24.4 percent and 22.7 percent, respectively. Chronic teacher absenteeism is defined as missing 18 days or more of school out of a typical 180-day school year.
Two more schools — Oakland Beach Elementary and Sherman Elementary — have rates above 20 percent.
In the 2018-2019 school year, more than 11 percent of all Warwick teachers — 100 teachers — were chronically absent, Thornton said, using data from the Rhode Island Department of Education. That said, more than a third of all teachers — 312 — missed less than five percent of school.
This isn’t just some hobby horse on which the superintendent wanted to beat for some reason. He raised the issue because teacher attendance is part of the formula that the RI Department of Education (RIDE) uses to grade the Ocean State’s schools. Looking for some means of holding our education system accountable (without actually changing anything), the state has developed metrics, and the chief executive of an organization has strong incentive to have his metrics look good.
We’re used to these spats, around here, but it’s worth stepping back a moment and plainly noting what is going on. The superintendent has identified a metric on which he believes the district can make improvements, and the relevant labor union, the Warwick Teachers’ Union, led by Darlene Netcoh, called out the troops and ramped up the objections, staking out ground for the fight. Some teachers have to work until 67, she says, which drives up the sick time, as if Rhode Islanders in the private sector have anywhere near the days off that government-school teachers get. Netcoh also attacked the numbers themselves.
Big picture, our elected and appointed officials have to be able to discuss ideas big and small, and they won’t feel as free to do that if every comment or proposal might begin the gears of the labor-unrest machine. In the private sector, management can discuss things and make plans before a possible dispute is placed in the open. In the public sector, only the unions have that privilege.
If we want open, transparent government, then we need some social (or legal) pressure on the labor unions to back off.
Increasing sexual activity among school-aged children in Massachusetts (or Rhode Island) would help Planned Parenthood develop life-long customers.
There’s been something odd about the introduction of the new superintendent for the now-state-run Providence Schools. The absence of Mayor Jorge Elorza from the public introduction of Harrison Peters was inexplicable. The first Providence Journal article following that introduction, by union-friend Linda Borg as well as Madeleine List, starts with technical details about the district and the hire and then jumps to: “In Hillsborough County, where he is currently chief of schools, Peters has critics and his admirers.” The following details are much heavier from the “critics.”
And then there’s general emphasis on the fact that Providence appears to have been his second choice, after having not been chosen for a promotion to Hillsborough County superintendent, while he was “at least” the second choice of Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, after her first offer fell through.
Talk about starting a new leader off on a negative footing!
Of course, nobody should simply be rah-rah, but the whole thing seems a bit like a typical Rhode Island self-fulfilling prophesy. From reformers’ perspective there is certainly reason for hope. After all, Peters touts “that he played an important part in lowering the number of ‘F’ schools in the district by 60 percent, decreasing the student suspension rate by 35 points, adding 10 ‘A’ schools and helping 15 schools improve from ‘D’ to ‘C.'”
Being from a state with some of the strongest school-choice programs in the country, he’ll bring with him knowledge of the tools Florida provides to administrators and families.
One does wonder whether some of the indifference and negativity that appears to surround his hiring indicates that Rhode Island insiders are setting the battleground to get their way knowing what he might conclude and advise.
Results from neither Newport schools nor regionalized schools justify Portsmouth abandoning its stable situation.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 27, included talk about:
- The Convention Center, the Speaker, the Republicans, and the Projo
- Sickness in the Warwick teacher contract
- Making the yellow shirts count
- (Slim) hope as a new face enters the Providence school scene
Rhode Island Families for School Choice is offering an opportunity to spend some time on Martin Luther King Day learning about and celebrating a policy fight that would be a blessing for disadvantaged and minority families:
On behalf of National School Choice Week, please join us for a special screening of Miss Virginia. Hailed as a “must-see” movie by USA Today, the film follows a struggling inner-city mother who sacrifices everything to give her son a good education. Unwilling to allow him to stay in a dangerous school, she launches a movement that could save his future—and that of thousands like him.
After the movie, meet and talk with legendary school choice advocate Virginia Walden Ford (the real-life Miss Virginia!), who will join us in Cranston for this special event. She will also sign copies of her new book, School Choice: A Legacy to Keep.
Note that the event is free and requires RSVP.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 6, included talk about:
- RI Congressmen’s bad alignment with the enemy
- Projo points to key issues for the legislature
- Linc finds another party to run with
- RI pols try to get out of the way of the Census
Why would a high school student who has no idea what Stanford is like want to apply there? Because it’s a ticket to the upper classes, and we should be honest about that.
Teenage brawls at Providence Place Mall provide a good example of how the advantages of progressive rhetoric lead to bad outcomes.
A kangaroo relationship-court at Johnson & Wales raises the question of the place that colleges (in general and in specific) hold in our society.
The key question we should ask when we hear that enrollment in teacher-prep programs has declined is whether that’s a bad thing.
State of the State co-host Richard August invited me on for a full hour of the show to cover a broad range of topics, from Tiverton’s recall election to broad political philosophy.
Whether “adversity scores” are appropriate or useful changes whether the intention is to redistribute wealth or judge schools to which we might send our own children.
My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 25, included talk about:
- Insider Alves and the radical caucus
- The union view of employer responsibility
- Gaspee versus campaign finance laws
- Paint on the statute becoming blood on government’s hands
- Blood on the police officer’s hand gets a slap on the wrist
While disaster in Providence schools receives a deserved proportion of Rhode Islanders’ attention, Tim Benson of the Heartland Institute suggests that we shouldn’t lose sight of problems across the whole state:
Results from the latest version of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test—also known as the Nation’s Report Card—have been released, and Rhode Island’s scores are not good.
Only 35 percent of fourth graders tested “proficient” in reading, while just 40 percent tested proficient in mathematics in 2019. These math scores were a decline from 2017. For eighth graders, just 35 percent were proficient in reading, and only 29 percent were proficient in math. Both of these results were also a decline from 2017, with reading scores being significantly down. When accounting for demographic differences across students throughout the state and control for race, ethnicity, special education status, income level, etc., Rhode Island’s scores are even worse.
Benson offers this as an introduction to his proposed solution, which is to expand the state’s tax credit scholarship program, whereby businesses receive tax credits for donating to scholarships for disadvantaged students. Lifting the cap on that program, opening it up to non-corporate donors, and adding provisions to provide certainty to scholarship recipients would all be great changes, but of itself, that solution is wholly inadequate to Rhode Island’s problem.
One local man here in Tiverton has been on a Facebook mission to find out what went wrong with Rhode Island public schools. There isn’t a single reason things got to their current state, and there won’t be a single fix. The challenges are cultural, they’re institutional, and they’re deep. Asking what went wrong is like looking at a lonely, obese, alcoholic smoker in late middle age whose house looks like it ought to be condemned for all the hazards and asking why his health is poor.
We need broad public policy reforms that open up doors for a wide variety of individualized education plans for students as part of a cultural shift in our understanding of ourselves and of government.
A universal metric for schools may not be possible or even desirable, especially if it doesn’t take into account feedback from families.
The problem of public education grows from two deep social changes and therefore won’t be easy to solve.
“Imagine that! Teachers sending out postcards with a picture of violence to silence others in town.” Tiverton Town Council member Donna Cook makes that statement in a new letter to the editor informing people about some facts from the recent recall election in town (which knocked me out of office).
She’s referring to one of the five mailings that the recall advocates sent to homes in Tiverton. The return address claims that it comes from “Progress RI,” which although not registered appears to be a “doing business as” name of the state’s teachers unions. The return address is that of a middle school teacher in town. And this is the front of the card, which Cook describes as “a violent picture similar to a kidnapping, hijacking, robbery, or a hostage situation.”
Note that the claim at the top of the card is demonstrably false; it’s a lie.
While recording an episode of a soon-to-be-released local podcast, Cook contrasted this card with all of the talk we hear from those in the education system about bullying. That’s an important contrast that isn’t made often enough in our world of hostile politics and toxic social media.
Imagine a high school student sending out something similar on social media about other students. Nobody would have any trouble seeing that as inappropriate bullying, and the student would face consequences, probably including suspension.
Of course, we rightly balance freedom of speech versus the giving of offense differently for children and adults. Grown-ups should be able to handle more, and society has less right to impose restrictions on them, at least in an official way. Still, this card was sent out by teachers in our public schools, behind a thin veil of anonymity and the thin excuse that it actually came from their labor union.
Is that the sort of standard we want for our nation, state, and community?
The RI education establishment trumpets the “transformation” of East Providence because its focus is on schools as a jobs program rather than a service to children.
Human nature makes it difficult for society to correct course, which is a reality currently crushing boys in our education system.