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

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

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 Letter to the Editor Teacher Housing Is a Critical Need in Native Communities
We can't forget about Indian lands school districts when talking about teacher housing, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention Q&A What Will Teacher Shortages Look Like in 2024 and Beyond? A Researcher Weighs In
Tuan Nguyen has been collecting teacher-vacancy data for years now. He shares what he's learned so far and his forecast for future turnover.
6 min read
Illustration of an empty office chair with a sign on the back that reads "Vacant"
iStock/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Gen Z Lacks Job-Readiness Skills, Survey Shows
Prospective employers say Gen Z'ers aren't job ready. Here's what's behind it, and how to adapt.
5 min read
Senior engineer explaining machine functioning to his student
E+ / Getty
Recruitment & Retention Opinion What Teachers of Color Say They Need Most
Teachers of color face the same challenges as their white peers, in addition to others.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty