Monday, March 08, 2010

R.I. Ed. chief Gist chats with 135 projo readers

To see how it will be to demonize Gist, check out the lengthy online chat she did with readers of the local paper (full transcript at the link below).  Her messaging is outstanding – very sympathetic, factual, student-oriented, not attacking, non-defensive.  Here are the highlights:

Deborah Gist: Linda: Thank you for your support. I am deeply concerned about what is happening in Central Falls. I know that it is stressful for everyone involved. However, I have said since I came to Rhode Island that we will intervene comprehensively in our persistently struggling schools. Great teachers will not need to be concerned about having a job in Rhode Island. Our students deserve no less than that…

…Deborah Gist: It isn't punitive because in the turnaround, restart and closure models, every staff member whose work contributes to the students' education is dismissed. It is a chance to start over and bring in only the very best. I don't discount that, for those teachers, assistants, administrators and other team members, dismissal is extremely personal. It can be a traumatic experience and may feel punitive. However, that isn't the purpose. The purpose is to create a stellar team from scratch that can create a culture of high performance and continuous improvement.


Lee: My questions are simple. At what point you will hold the parents accountable? I Where do you think you will get these highly qualified teachers to replace the ones fired? The reason I ask is I would never encourage my child to apply to an urban school because odds are the next batch of teachers will be fired when these scores don't improve. WAY TOO RISKY! Better off in a suburban district.

Deborah Gist: Lee: Schools and teachers should do everything they can to engage parents and to help them support their child's learning. However, every educator is responsible for student success regardless of that child's background or family support. In fact, children whose families struggle to support them need our help and a quality education more than anyone.

Deborah Gist: We have many high quality teachers in our state who are either not able to find a job or are on temporary assignments. We also have great teacher preparation programs locally and nationally that each year prepare more teachers than we hire.

Deborah Gist: I will be holding all teachers and school leaders accountable for achieving growth with students including those in suburban districts…

…Deborah Gist: Parent involvement is important, and supportive, engaged parents are important partners in a child's education. Fortunately, we know that great teaching can overcome those instances when children have parents who are unable to provide that level of support. I don't blame teachers, but I do hold them accountable for results. I also hold myself and everyone on my team accountable.



Deborah Gist: Chasm: Seniority is no longer a way in which teachers will be selected and assigned in our state. I sent a letter to all superintendents last fall to remind them that the Basic Education Program Regulation in going in effect this summer, and seniority policies would be inconsistent with that regulation. Unfortunately, state statute requires that layoffs be done on a "first in, first out" policy. Legislation would be required to change that, and I would wholeheartedly support it if it were introduced. I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the very highest quality teacher is in every classroom in our state.



Deborah Gist: Dismissing all of the education-related staff is a requirement of the turnaround model. In fact, the only model that does not have full dismissal as a part of its design is transformation. Although transformation was the superintendent's first choice, Central Falls has decided that transformation is not a viable option. Under turnaround, up to 50% of the staff can be rehired. What will result is a staff hand-selected to be the very best in the country to serve your child well in every class, in every subject every day. This won't be an easy process, but comprehensive intervention at this point will be required in our most persistently lowest-achieving schools.

SueBuono: Ms. Gist, Supporting Ms. Gallo's emotional response takes woman in the role of executive management back 20years. This is a pure emotional reaction - she has no precedent the wholesale firing of teachers will meet the goals of improved performance for Central Falls. She picks an aribtrary re-hire number of 50%. She has no plan for hiring the 'new & improved' teachers. This is not the emotional action of a woman who did not get her way? Thanks - now I get to defend myself once again to my colleagues.

Deborah Gist: SueBuono: Rather than an emotional response, Dr. Gallo is following a very carefully designed process that I have indicated she must follow--choosing one of the school improvement models while engaging the community in the decision. The 50% maximum hire back is not arbitrary; it is laid out very clearly in federal law. Further, Dr. Gallo has already begun developing the next steps and will have up to 120 days (as required in the protocol) to create a detailed plan.


Matt: Will you apologize for repeatedly saying that "we recruit the majority of our teachers from the bottom third of high school students going to college"? The studies that you cite do not back this up.

Deborah Gist: Matt: As a traditionally trained teacher, I know this is difficult to hear. I don't like it either. Unfortunately, it is true. While there are many extraordinarily intelligent educators throughout Rhode Island and our country, the US--unlike other high performing countries--recruits our teachers from the lowest performers in our secondary schools based on SAT scores and other performance data.

Deborah Gist: If you have a source that shows otherwise, I'd love to see that. I'm always open to learning new resources. So, I'd be happy for you to share that.

And finally a great defense of Teach For America:

rhodyblue: you have indicated support for programs such as Teach for America where graduates from college receive 5-6 weeks of training and then serve as teachers for a couple of years- would you have your children taught by someone with such minimal training? would you employ an electrician with such minimal training? thank you

Deborah Gist: rhodyblue: As someone who was trained as a traditional teacher, I was offended by Teach for America for many years. I just found it insulting to think that someone could learn what I did in such a short period. It was the exact question you ask plus the research I have read that ultimately changed my mind. The answer is, "Yes. I would love to have my child in a Teach for America classroom." The teachers are highly recruited, and the program is very selective. The teachers receive training and then extensive support as they teach. Results show they are effective, and a large percentage stay in teaching beyond the 2 year commitment.


Transcript: R.I. Ed. chief Gist chats with 135 projo readers

5:34 PM Thu, Feb 18, 2010 | Permalink
Pamela Reinsel Cotter

 Subscribe in a reader