Recruitment & Retention

R.I. Chief Launches Effort to Soften Seniority’s Grip

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 02, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah A. Gist has told districts to work to eliminate teacher-assignment practices based on seniority when their collective bargaining agreements come up for renewal this year. She wants assignments to be based on performance criteria instead.

The policy is part of the Rhode Island’s new Basic Education Program that takes effect next July.

In a letter to the state’s local superintendents, Ms. Gist said the program requires that the “continuous improvement of student learning” be the basis for all decisionmaking. “In my view, no system that bases teacher assignments solely on seniority can comply with this regulation,” the letter says.

But the National Education Association Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, who together represent 12,000 public school teachers in the state, were blindsided by the announcement.

“We’re going to court,” said Marcia Reback, the president of the federation. “This narrows the scope of collective bargaining.”

Ms. Gist’s predecessor, Peter J. McWalters, had taken a similar—though more limited—step earlier this year when he told the Providence school system to drop seniority in filling teacher vacancies. (“R.I. Chief Orders Providence to Relax Staffing Rules,” March 18, 2009.)

The Providence Teachers Union is challenging that move in federal court.

Ms. Gist’s action comes as school districts around the country tinker with traditional structures that affect teacher quality, such as compensation and evaluation.

So far, though, seniority has been mostly ignored.

For instance, the New Haven, Conn., teacher contract is being held up by union, district, and federal officials as a model effort for collaborative reform. But even in that city’s charter-like “turnaround” schools, teachers who aren’t rehired by their principals or choose to leave after a two-year commitment can put their bid on positions based on seniority.

The Associated Press and the McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.

A version of this article appeared in the November 04, 2009 edition of Education Week as R.I. Chief Launches Effort to Soften Seniority’s Grip

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention Download GUIDE: How Administrators Can Address Staff Shortages in Schools
The number of job openings in schools this year is daunting, but there are steps district leaders can take to keep operations running smoothly.
1 min read
group of diverse people fading away
Recruitment & Retention This District Built a Better, More Reliable Supply of Substitute Teachers. Here's How
A Rhode Island school district tackles one of the biggest staffing challenges for school administrators. So far, it's working.
6 min read
Substitutes size is fine
Recruitment & Retention Many Feared an Educator Exodus From the Pandemic. It Doesn't Seem to Have Happened. Yet.
A RAND Corporation survey of district leaders finds that predictions about principals and teachers fleeing their jobs haven't panned out.
5 min read
People form two lines in front of an Exit sign
Recruitment & Retention Schools Pay a High Price for Low Teacher Salaries
Teacher turnover rates are rising and more than half of teachers said a salary hike could persuade them to stay in the classroom longer.
4 min read
Conceptual image of salary.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)