Friday, January 7, 2011

Storm in Narragansett

Yesterday, with many others, I got myself to Narragansett High School for the Rhode Island Board of Regents meeting. Unfortunately, I then had to get myself back to Providence long before the meeting ended; nearly an hour and a half in, public comments were still happening, most devoted to protesting the Regents' proposed changes in the Rhode Island high school diploma requirements and the proposal to institute a three-tiered diploma system. This new system would go into effect for this year's high school juniors and would, with its over-reliance on NECAP scores to determine diploma status, severely and inequitably penalize students of color and from low-income backgrounds, as well as English language learner and students receiving special education services. More here from ProJo's Jennifer Jordan on the public outcry against the proposed changes and the Regents' decision to move forward into public hearings, which will happen later this month.

Today's ProJo also shared a shocker that happened later during the meeting. Linda Borg reports that the Board of Regents voted to stay Commissioner Deborah Gist's ruling in favor of restoring essential common planning time to Hope High School teachers, a resource that the Providence Public Schools administration removed from the school last year and which students, with the counsel and action of attorney Miriam Weizenbaum, successfully fought. The Regents' approval of Gist's ruling was viewed by many as a foregone conclusion, as it had been endorsed by a Regents' subcommittee and was clearly in good legal standing. I don't know enough to be authoritative, but it sure seems that the Regents' reversal, based (as Borg reports) on changes that may happen in the future, is specious.

This decision is terribly unfair to Hope High School's students, who understand and have fought for what works in their school, and to all students in Providence who can benefit from the innovation and experience that's been a factor in Hope's successes. I don't fathom why the Regents are aligning against proven innovation and effectiveness, and am exceedingly grateful for the students and attorney Weizenbaum for continuing to fight for that which school staff members are legally entitled.

Check out Tom Hoffman's blog for more on both of these stories.

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