Providential precedent

We've long known that "last hired, first fired" rules cost districts cash and undermine teacher quality to boot. It's taken him his fifteen-year tenure, but Rhode Island education commissioner Peter McWalters finally agrees. He recently ordered persistently underperforming Providence to give principals more say in who's hired and who's fired and base staffing decisions on student need and teacher quality, rather than seniority. McWalters' legal cover for such a bold move--which violates the city's collective bargaining agreement with the Providence Teachers Union--is a 1997 state law that allows him to progressively become more involved in a district that's been failing for three or more years. Providence is coming up on seven. McWalters says he's just following the research. We're certainly heartened by this move but we can't help but wonder what took him so long to see the light--and notice McWalters himself is about to retire. Maybe another state chief will be bold enough to follow in McWalters' footsteps--and long before he or she has one foot out the door.

"R.I. Chief Orders Providence to Relax Staffing Rules," by Stephen Sawchuck, Education Week, March 18, 2009 (subscription required)

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