June 19, 2018
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Report: RI’s strides on teacher quality among best

By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI, The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island is among the states that have made the most strides on teacher quality policies in the last two years, a national education research and policy group said Wednesday.

A report by the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Rhode Island fifth in the nation in overall progress on policies ranging from teacher tenure and teacher compensation to pensions and performance evaluations.

In its “State Teacher Policy Yearbook,” the council, which seeks to improve the quality of teaching, gave Rhode Island an overall grade of B-, compared to a D in 2009.

Only one state — Florida — was given a better grade, of B, and only two other states — Oklahoma and Tennessee — got the same grade. Overall, 28 states improved their grades over the last two years.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said the state has focused in the last two years on efforts to boost teacher quality, including by revising regulations on teacher evaluations and certifications, among other things.

“Improving educator effectiveness is at the core of our theory of change for the state,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s good to see that that’s reflected and acknowledged in this analysis.”

Lawrence Purtill, president of the National Education Association Rhode Island, said he had not seen the report but was not surprised the state fared well.

“I’m not sure people outside the education profession understand how hard teachers work to be good teachers — the time and the effort that goes into it,” he said. “More is being required of them than ever and they’re certainly up to the task. I give the credit to the teachers.”

The yearbook, which measures progress against 36 policy goals, offered grades in five categories. Rhode Island got an A- in identifying effective teachers, an area in which it was given a D in 2009. It got a B+ in getting rid of ineffective teachers, compared to an F two years ago. It also improved in expanding its teacher pool, earning a B- in expanding compared to an earlier C.

It fared less well in two other areas, receiving a D+ in delivering well-prepared teachers — up from a D. It also got a D in retaining effective teachers, the same grade it received two years ago.

Some of the policy strengths identified in the report are that all new teachers receive mentoring; that more has been done to make sure teachers meet licensure testing requirements within a year; and that teacher tenure decisions are tied to classroom effectiveness.

One policy weakness, according to the report, is that out-of-state teachers are not required to meet the state’s testing requirements. Others are that middle-school and secondary teachers aren’t required to pass a test in the content area they’re teaching; and that pension policies are “not portable, flexible or fair” to all teachers.

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