The more difficult the change, the more determined the resistance. Just ask R.I. Commissioner of Education Deborah A. Gist.
Fresh off a new two-year contract to lead the state’s elementary- and secondary-education efforts, Ms. Gist is not backing off her reform agenda. And Rhode Islanders should breathe a sigh of relief for that.
The path to the contract renewal was not a simple one, as Ms. Gist’s opponents – many of them teachers – fought against it. But what are they fighting for, maintaining the status quo?
Rhode Island is among the states spending the most per pupil in the country. At the same time, the educational outcomes are by any measure – including the now-controversial New England Common Assessment Program – substandard.
It is clear that whatever has been done in Rhode Island for years is not working, whether academic achievement is taken into account or workforce readiness is the measuring stick. Ms. Gist has been willing to take on those interests that admit now that reform is needed but really are not interested in reform upsetting their own apple carts. Call it NIMC-ism (that’s Not In My Classroom).
Ms. Gist is the key reason that Rhode Island has been awarded two federal Race to the Top grants, injections of funding that help make the necessary changes possible. Her new contract is not only well-deserved, it should have been made longer. •
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