The debate is over. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has two more years to continue her work reforming education and to answer the many questions her policies have raised.
Two years to prove her critics wrong … or give them the ammunition they need for 2015.
Since the NECAP scores were released in February and 4,100 juniors were told they were at risk of not graduating high school, tension between the Department of Education, parents, students and teachers has been mounting. There were demonstrations at the State House. Close to 600 teachers came out to a union-sponsored meeting at Cranston High School West and it essentially turned into a mob calling for Gist’s head.
Then, last Thursday, it suddenly stopped.
Gist is still the woman in charge.
Gist and her administration are in the third year of a five-year plan to reform education. In a recent interview with the Beacon, Gist said in order to see lasting results, plans need to be followed through with.
When looking at districts, states and countries that follow the high-performing education model, Gist sees a common factor. “They may do the work differently, but what they all have in common is they had plans and they stuck to that plan,” she said.
Well, Gist will be able to see the five-year plan through to its conclusion, but it won’t be easy. There are bills in the House and Senate looking to ban the use of NECAPS as graduation requirements, Senator James Sheehan is looking into the legality of her seniority policy and there are those 4,100 juniors to look out for.
Gist has been quoted multiple times saying those students will all graduate next year, no problem. They only need to answer five more questions correct to show improvement.
Well, it is time to prove it.
It is hard to say that Gist’s heart is not in the right place. How can someone say increasing the value of a high school diploma is a bad thing? Too often, diplomas are given to students who are not prepared to start a career or handle the pressure of a college education. It is also clear to see that some teachers perform better than others.
But is it worth the risk? Will dropout rates increase if students cannot raise their NECAP scores? Will teachers leave the profession because of low morale?
Only time will tell. Gist has two more years; let’s see what she does with them. This is Gist’s test.