Rhode Island education chief seeks higher standards for prospective teachers

Jennifer Jordan:

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who has made teacher quality the cornerstone of her three-month-old administration, is raising the score that aspiring teachers must achieve on a basic skills test required for admission to all of the state’s teacher training programs.
Currently, Rhode Island’s “cut score” ranks among the lowest in the nation, alongside Mississippi and Guam. Gist wants to raise it to the highest.
“Teacher quality is the single most important factor for student success in school,” Gist said. “This is a first step in raising our expectations across the board for our educators and our system.”
Gist says she intends to transform “the entire career span of a teacher,” including who is allowed to train to become a teacher, the rigor of the programs, mentoring of new teachers, support and training for veteran teachers, and the reward of higher pay for high performance.
“We need to look at how we improve at every point along the span,” Gist said. “Looking at teacher cut scores before they ever get accepted to a preparation program is a way to safeguard the early gate.”
Gist and her staff reviewed other states’ cut scores and found Virginia’s to be the highest in reading, math and writing. Gist set Rhode Island’s score one point higher than Virginia’s in each subject, saying she wants to make Rhode Island’s education system the envy of the nation.
“I have the utmost confidence that Rhode Island’s future teachers are capable of this kind of performance,” she said.

Perhaps one day we’ll have such actions in Wisconsin…