Equitable Access

Ensuring all Rhode Island students are taught and supported by excellent educators

“As we work to improve teaching and learning in every school and classroom, we recognize from data we have collected that our highest-poverty school districts face special challenges in recruiting and retaining excellent educators. The Rhode Island Equity Plan aims to take on this issue directly by improving data collection on teacher quality, developing statewide strategies for sharing best practices, and providing targeted support for teachers working in our highest-poverty schools.” - Education Commissioner Ken Wagner
Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 6/16/2017 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Lauren Matlach
Education Specialist

The media often portrays the education profession as being in a state of crisis, with half of all new teachers leaving the profession within five years.  Is this the case in Rhode Island?

RIDE recently worked with the Regional Education Laboratory Northeast & Islands (REL-NEI) to analyze the mobility patterns of early career teachers.  In this study, we tracked all teachers who had 0-2 prior years of teaching experience in Rhode Island public schools in 2011-12 through 2015-16.  From this information, we determined the extent to which teachers stayed in their current schools, moved to another school, transitioned to another role, or left Rhode Island public schools altogether.  Below, we evaluate statements we commonly hear and share whether they are true or false based on our recent analysis.

1. More than half of early-career teachers leave Rhode Island within five years.

False.  Seventy-seven percent of the 2011-12 early career teachers were still teaching in Rhode Island public schools in 2015-16.  Another 1 percent of early career teachers continued working in Rhode Island public schools but in a different role (i.e. as a support professional or administrator).  While there certainly is additional work that Rhode Island can do to support and retain early career teachers, the data do not support claims that half of new teachers leave within five years.

2. Early career teacher mobility is higher in high poverty schools.

False.  The analysis found that early career teachers tended to move, stay, change roles, or leave Rhode Island public schools at similar rates across school poverty levels. 

3. Early career teachers in high minority schools leave teaching in Rhode Island or change roles at higher rates than teachers in moderate or low minority schools.

True.  The REL-NEI analysis found that 29 percent of teachers working in a high minority school left teaching in Rhode Island compared to approximately 20 percent of teachers working in moderate or low minority schools.  Additional efforts are needed to understand why early career teachers working in high minority schools left teaching between 2011-12 and 2015-16 at higher rates than early career teachers in low and moderate minority schools. 

4. Middle school early career teachers have the highest mobility rates.

False.  During equity plan stakeholder sessions, we often heard that people thought middle school teachers moved schools at higher rates.  However, the data do not support this claim.  In fact, elementary early-career teachers had the highest mobility rate (36 percent) compared to 30 percent at the middle school level and 22 percent at the high school level.  High school teachers had the highest rate of leaving Rhode Island public schools (25 percent). 

5. Early career teachers identifying as non-white tend to leave Rhode Island public schools at higher rates than white teachers. 

False.  Teachers tended to move, stay, change roles, or leave at similar rates regardless of their minority status or age.

6. Male early career teachers tend to stay at their original schools compared to female early career teachers.

True.  The analysis found that 60 percent of male early career teachers stayed in their original schools from 2011-12 to 2015-16 compared to 51 percent of female teachers.

Based on the information above, what was most surprising? 

Thanks to this analysis, Rhode Islanders now have some additional information about teacher mobility in the state.  However, there are important limitations to this analysis.  Although the sample size is substantial (1,256 teachers), the analysis icnludes only one cohort of teachers.  It is possible that mobility patterns in future cohorts might vary.  We also know that 20 schools closed or reorganized between 2011-12 and 2016, which may have slightly inflated mobility numbers for this cohort. 

Another limitation is that an early career teacher’s status is based solely on years of experience teaching in Rhode Island public schools; as a result, some teachers classified as early career teachers in the analysis may have prior experience teaching in private schools or in a different state.  To address this issue, RIDE is changing its Personnel Assignment System so that future analyses will be able to account for a teacher’s previous experience working in other states. 

Most important, the descriptive analysis conducted with REL-NEI does not get at an important question: Why? 

In the coming months, RIDE will be working with REL-NEI to conduct additional analyses that look at the relationship between educator preparation program experiences and subsequent educator evaluation ratings and mobility patterns.  RIDE will work to understand better why these mobility patterns exist. 

We also want to hear from you!  Why do you think female early career teachers change schools more frequently than males?  Why do you think teachers working in minority schools tend to leave the profession at higher rates than their counterparts in schools with lower minority rates?  Were these findings surprising to you?  Let us know @RIDeptEd and @lkbivona.

Have questions about the study or interested in learning more?  If so, please e-mail Lauren Matlach at lauren.matlach@ride.ri.gov.



Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 12/19/2016 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Nikos Giannopoulos
2017 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year

Many say that teaching is a thankless job. I think anyone who has ever taught knows that that’s simply not true. Students and families appreciate when teachers go above and beyond expectations and they are often generous with praise and appreciation. These school/family partnerships are what make teaching such a truly fulfilling and special career.

On the other hand, schools are lively institutions with many individuals working toward a common goal. Sometimes, hardworking teachers may feel that their work goes unnoticed by administration, fellow educators, or the communities in which they serve. In order to support our innovative educators, we must foster an environment that nurtures their best characteristics and recognizes exceptional work. We must all continue—as parents, community members, fellow educators, and leaders—to find opportunities to recognize our state’s exceptional educators.

In my role as Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, much of the most rewarding work I’ve done has been supporting educator recognition efforts. The NBC 10 Golden Apple Awards are a local institution - almost every student, teacher, and parent has seen these brilliant educators publically recognized on prime time television. This year, I have been privileged to read the nomination letters and visit the classrooms of these distinguished teachers. Though they come from schools all over the state and teach a variety of subjects, the one thing they all have in common is that they lead classrooms that are innovative, rigorous, supportive, and joyful. I am consistently struck by how much of an impact an individual educator can have on a school, their students, and their community. Highlighting those who have pushed themselves to be the best they can be for their students, the Golden Apple Awards are an affirmation that everyone benefits from high quality teaching.

On September 24, 2016 Waterfire Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Education co-hosted the annual Salute to Rhode Island Educators. This gathering serves as an annual awards ceremony for the State Teacher of the Year, the District Teachers of the Year, Milken Educators of the Year, Presidential Award winners and many, many others. Beyond the awards, the night is meant to celebrate all Rhode Island educators. On this night, I was honored to be able to address my peers, my colleagues, and all Rhode Island educators. My message was one of gratitude. As a special education inclusion teacher, my work is dependent upon collaborating with other talented educators. We are all important members of the same team, striving for the same goal. When we recognize greatness in education, we elevate and strengthen the entire profession.

In one of the more unique moments of the evening, Barnaby Evans, the creator of Waterfire, brought over a container full of glowing blue objects.  He called these creations “dream orbs”. We were told to think about our dreams for a brighter future and gently toss them into the basin of Waterplace Park. As I prepared to toss mine in, I kept in mind the incredible educators that I’ve met from around the state. I thought about the students, young and old, from diverse backgrounds and communities who came out to support their teachers. I thought about how in one year’s time, one of the teachers standing with me would be the next Rhode Island Teacher of the Year and how their school community would rally behind them and support them through the journey ahead. I smiled, knowing how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful state, full of talented educators, and a community that values their efforts. Feeling overwhelming positivity about the future of education in our special little state, I released the glowing orb into the water and looked forward to celebrating again next year!

For more information about the Rhode Island Teacher of the Year program and how you can help, please click here.


Posted by: Lauren Matlach on 9/29/2016 | [PRC_COMMENTCOUNT] Comments

Carrie Appel & Lauren Matlach
RIDE Education Specialists

Think about your workplace.  What time is available for you plan projects and collaborate with others?  What is the quality of the facilities in which you work and the resources available to you to ensure you can do your job well?  How effective are your leaders and managers at creating trusting and caring environments so people want to do their best work?  Finally, how does the quality of these conditions affect your performance and your interest in continuing to work there long-term?

When talking about educators we refer to their working conditions as teaching and learning conditions. And they matter! We know from research that teaching conditions can influence teachers’ effectiveness, satisfaction with their jobs, motivation, and productiveness.  These same teaching conditions that affect teachers also affect their students: student conduct, educator autonomy, professional development quality, and time available for planning and collaboration are all predictive of student learning gains and student perceptions of support and rigor.

When RIDE sought stakeholder input into the development of the state’s equity plan, stakeholders identified multiple potential root causes of an inequitable distribution of educators in our state that are related to teaching and learning conditions: insufficient or low quality professional learning, induction and coaching; limited career paths and leadership opportunities; insufficient resources, including facility quality and support for enrichment; and school leadership.  Since then, RIDE and local districts have begun multiple efforts to better understand and address teaching and learning conditions.

Earlier this year, RIDE staff member Carrie Appel and representatives from Providence and Woonsocket school districts attended a full-day session hosted by the Northeast Comprehensive Center and the Center for Great Teachers and Leaders that was focused on research-based strategies for improving teaching conditions.  After the session, each district worked with RIDE to develop a survey instrument to administer to schools about teaching and learning conditions within their districts.  In June, each district shared its progress and attended additional professional learning focused on leadership, professional development, progress monitoring, stakeholder engagement, and communications.  As a follow up, RIDE and the Northeast Comprehensive Center co-facilitated a professional learning session for principals in Providence on August 30.  During the session, participating school leaders learned about key research related to teaching conditions, reviewed district-specific data, and developed action plans for their schools. 

Teaching and learning conditions matter. They matter to educators and they matter to students. Consider a scenario where a first-year teacher works in school that is in physical disrepair and lacks sufficient materials and technology.  Although the teacher is committed to her students, she is overwhelmed.  There is little time for her to develop relationships and learn from her colleagues, and she has no mentor or coach to provide support.  And so it begs the question: will this teacher stay at this school or look elsewhere to teach?

Or will she give up on the profession altogether?



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