Petition Closed
Petitioning Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and 1 other

RI Governor Lincoln Chafee and the RI Board of Education: Let the voices of classroom teachers be heard.

A recent poll among Rhode Island’s classroom teachers has revealed a glaring disconnect between educators and the Commissioner of Education. Morale is low, communication is non-existent and teachers are in fear of a flawed and unfair evaluation system that places a heavy emphasis on students’ test scores, which in many cases are beyond a teacher’s control.

But most importantly, students are suffering the consequences. It’s time to re-examine the Rhode Island Department of Education’s policies and the failed leadership of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. It’s time to listen to the concerns of the very people who educate our children. It’s time to give classroom teachers a voice.

Letter to
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee
RI Board of Education members
I am deeply concerned about the failed leadership of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist and the policies she has implemented for the Rhode Island Department of Education. She has consistently ignored the concerns of the very people who educate our children in the classroom every day–the teachers.

A recent poll among Rhode Island’s classroom teachers has revealed a glaring disconnect between educators and the Commissioner of Education. Morale is low, communication is non-existent and teachers are in fear of a flawed and unfair evaluation system that places a heavy emphasis on students’ test scores, which in many cases are beyond a teacher’s control.

Before Deborah Gist’s contract is renewed, you should consider the following poll numbers:

• Teachers were told that Commissioner Gist’s contract as Commissioner of Education is up in June and asked if they think Governor Chafee should reappoint her as Commissioner of Education. Eighty-five percent of teachers said she should not be reappointed as Commissioner, 7% said she should be reappointed and 7% were not sure on the question.

• Ninety percent of Rhode Island public school teachers said that under Commissioner Gist the level of teacher morale in their building is just fair or poor (22% just fair, 68% poor) while 8% said that teacher morale was excellent or good (1% excellent, 7% good).

• Ninety-four percent of teachers who have taught 20 or more years said teacher moral is just fair or poor (77% poor).

• Nine out of ten Rhode Island public school teachers said that Commissioner Gist’s communication with teachers is fair or poor. Eight percent of teachers said she has excellent or good communications (2% excellent, 6% good) with teachers while 90% rated her fair or poor (27% fair, 63% poor).

• Almost three fourths of Rhode Island public school teachers rated Education Commissioner Gist’s performance as either somewhat ineffective or ineffective. Seventy-three percent said she was ineffective (29% somewhat ineffective, 44% ineffective) while 24% said she was effective (3% highly effective, 21% somewhat effective) and 3% were not sure.

• Teachers were asked if they feel they are more or less respected as a professional than they were four years ago. Eight percent said they feel more respected as a professional, 82% less respected, 9% volunteered it is the same and 1% were not sure.)

• Thirty-seven percent of Rhode Island public school teachers said that RIDE has provided professional support over the past four years (4% great deal, 33% some) while 62% said they have not (41% very little, 21% none at all).

• Sixty-one percent of Rhode Island public school teachers said that if they knew ahead of time what has taken place in education over the past four years they would not have gone into education, 30% said they would have and 9% were not sure.

• Seven percent of Rhode Island public school teachers said that they are better off today under Education Commissioner Gist than they were four years ago, 85% said they are not better off and 8% are not sure on the question.

• Fourteen percent of teachers feel that Race To The Top has been effective in reforming public education in Rhode Island (1% very effective and 13% somewhat effective) while 82% said it has not (22% somewhat ineffective and 60% a waste of money).

• Thirty-one percent of Rhode Island public school teachers said that their school or school district has benefited from the Race To The Top, 57% said they have not and 12% are not sure on the question.

• Rhode Island public school teachers do not believe that statewide assessments (NECAP) should be a requirement for students to graduate from high school. Seventy-two percent said the statewide assessments should not be used while 21% said they should and 7% were not sure.

• Twenty-one percent of Rhode Island public school teachers believe that statewide assessments (NECAP) should be used in teacher evaluations while 79% said they should not be used.

• Teachers give poor ratings to Commissioner Gist’s response to concerns raised about the use of statewide assessments as graduation requirements. Eighty-four percent said her response has been ineffective (27% somewhat ineffective, 57% ineffective) while 11% said it was effective (2% highly effective, 9% somewhat effective).

• Seventy-three percent of teachers do not think RIDE policies reflect what classroom teachers feel to be in the best interest of students (47% very little, 26% not at all) while 25% think they do (2% great deal, 23% somewhat) and 3% are not sure.

• Only one out of ten teachers feel that they or their colleagues have had input in the development of RIDE’s educational polices. Twelve percent of teachers said they have had great or some input into RIDE’s polices (1% great deal, 11% somewhat) while 86% said they had very little or none at all (48% very little, 38% not at all).

• Eighteen percent of Rhode Island public school teachers said that Commissioner Gist values the professional expertise and opinions of Rhode Island teachers (3% great deal, 15% somewhat) while 81% said she does not (39% very little, 42% not at all) and 2% are not sure.

• One out of five Rhode Island public school teachers said that Commissioner Gist understands the real issues faced by Rhode Island classroom teachers. Nineteen percent of teachers said she understands the issues (2% great deal, 17% some) while 80% said she does not understand the issues facing classroom teachers (41% very little, 39% not at all).

Most importantly, students are suffering the consequences. It’s time to re-examine the Rhode Island Department of Education’s policies and the failed leadership of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. It’s time to listen to the concerns of the very people who educate our children. It’s time to give classroom teachers a voice.