The Mayor of my home town (Cumberland, RI), Daniel McKee, is engaged in a very interesting experiment. As Ed Week noted, if McKee:
and a coalition of other Rhode Island town leaders have their way, they’ll ditch public education’s current bureaucracy and start over with a clean slate. It’s just not clear yet exactly what they will be able to write on it.
The plan, as Mr. McKee and his Coalition of Communities Improving Rhode Island were planning to announce it late last week, is to set up a regional, mayorally headed network of charter schools—something that charter school experts say has never been attempted in quite the way the coalition is proposing.
Yes, the Cumberland teachers union rep is against it, saying, “The approach that he’s taking, in my opinion, would tend to alienate the people we already have in the trenches doing their jobs.”
Yes, as the Providence Journal reports, the superintendents oppose the idea, as well. “Citing Title 16-2-9, the state law that lists the general powers and duties of the school committee,” Schools Supt. Donna Morelle is quoted as saying:
As a professional, I’m not a territorial person, but the law speaks to who has care and control of the schools. It’s very clear. It’s the School Committee.
Translation: This is about territory. McKee underscores that the “current cost of education in Rhode Island isn’t sustainable” and that “taxpayers aren’t getting the results based on what they’re being asked to spend.”
The numbers suggest he is right. As Marcia Green of the Valley Breeze notes,
Just-released scores achieved by last year’s 11th-graders show more than half of Cumberland students aren’t making the grade – just 48 percent are proficient in English language arts and 39.5 percent in math.
In the past year, scores are down 9 percentage points in English and almost 5 points in math.
That leaves Morelle asking aloud, “How do you make it more than a slogan?”
Perhaps, in addition to allowing for the McKee’s Municipal Academy, which would serve 150-250 kids, one might begin by asking the School Committee to insist on accountability. Ah, but that is too much to ask: They voted in secret to extend Morelle’s contract…
For you, Massachusetts-ers who are wondering what this has to do with your navel, well, the Mayor and Michael Magee, who runs the newly established Cumberland Office of Children Youth and Learning, have cited the MATCH school as an inspiration. Magee notes in the Valley Breeze that MATCH has two times the number of students proficient in math and English than my alma mater…
Massachusetts is an example for many. Unfortunately, it seems our incredible record of improvement does not inspire our own Governor.