Clairelise Rodriguez is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

And we’re back for the state of the CAN. This week’s update comes from Rhode Island, where I interviewed RI-CAN Executive Director Maryellen Butke:

What’s happening in Rhode Island now? What are the hot-button issues in education? How is RI-CAN joining the debate on those issues?

The most recent debate in education was around the new teacher certification regulations. This certification redesign responds to the requirements of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s (RIDE) Strategic Plan and our commitments in the Race to the Top Scope of Work.  The revised certification system is one that:

  • Creates a multi-tiered system establishing pathways for teachers to advance their careers;
  • Streamlines the certification process and ensures that all certificates are reasonably designed to support student learning;
  • Expands pathways into education.

The new regulations will allow RIDE to establish a renewal process for certificates based on proven teacher effectiveness.  The recommendations place student needs and achievement at the center of RIDE’s decisions regarding certification. They also tailor professional development to the educator and their primary evaluator. The new certification system ties the renewal process to evaluation results.  Certificates would not be renewed if someone is found to be ineffective every year during the renewal period.  Being deemed ineffective means they are struggling with practice, they are not meeting professional responsibilities, and the majority of their students are not making academic progress across multiple measures for for consecutive years.  No one is at risk of not having their certificate renewed because of one test score.

The evaluation process is new, but we have every reason to believe that it is a strong model that will support our teachers in effectively educating their students.  

RI-CAN staff attended the public hearings on these regulations and testified in support of the new teacher certification regulations.  

Phew! Sounds like a lot. You also have another legislative campaign coming up in January. Have you started to gear up for it?

As a team, we are actively engaged in meeting with key stakeholders to get their input into our 2012 legislative agenda.  We have met with our advisory board, superintendents, nonprofit leaders and legislative leaders as well as education reform allies to get their suggestions on potential goals.  We have narrowed our list down and will finalize our goals in the coming weeks. 

As you think about 2012, what do you think will be the biggest opportunity for improving education in Rhode Island?

We are now at the critical stage of making good on our Race to the Top promises.  When Secretary Duncan was here last week, he talked about the hard work of implementing the teacher evaluation system, new certification regulations and the new teacher coaching program—all part of our winning Race to the Top plan. 

In addition, Achievement First and the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies have recently resubmitted their application to open an Achievement First school in Providence.  The vote on this will most likely be held in January.  Opening another great school, especially in Providence, will provide even more opportunity for our children to get a first class education.

How can Rhode Islanders get involved today with RI-CAN’s work?

The first thing to do is to join our mailing list to get critical updates about our work!  As we move into campaign season in 2012, you will receive updates on ways to get involved!  We are also planning events for the coming months to engage stakeholders on various aspects of education reform.

Stay tuned!


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