The surprising educator on Time’s list of influential people
Time magazine has released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and there are some of the predictable names: President Obama, Bill Clinton, Lady Gaga.
Okay, Lady Gaga might not be predictable to you, but she would be to your daughters.
The more surprising addition to this year’s list is the one educator included -- and no, it is not D.C. Schools Superintendent Michelle Rhee, who has become the darling of school reforms nationwide. Neither is it Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
It is, rather, Deborah Gist, 43, the commissioner of Rhode Island schools, a job she has had since July 2009.
Yes, the commissioner of Rhode Island schools, who previously worked in the District as the first State Superintendent of Education in the District of Columbia, beginning in June 2007.
In the District, Gist was responsible for transitioning all state-level education functions from the city government to the newly formed office of the state superintendent. She also oversaw implementation of No Child Left Behind’s accountability systems.
When she got to Rhode Island, Time reports, she quietly began to institute reforms in line with Duncan’s thinking. She launched a new teacher evaluation system in which teachers get annual reviews, and said classroom staffing decisions would be based on qualifications rather than seniority. She also raised the requirement for entry into the state’s teacher-training programs, raising the necessary test score to the highest in the country.
Where Gist became more nationally known was when she approved the actions of the school superintendent who earlier this year fired all of the educators at Central Falls High School, the only high school in that district.
The firings got national attention, and both Duncan and President Obama expressed public support for the move.
Yesterday, the Central Falls Teachers Union sued Gist and others in the state to try to block the mass firings. It was Gist who ordered the school district to adopt one of four models to fix the troubled school. Gallo selected one option but could not get the teachers to go agree, so she then opted for the "turnaround" model, which allows her to fire everybody and rehire up to 50 percent of them.
The union filed the complaint now because Gallo had just started accepting applications for the jobs.
Anyway, lists such as this one are, of course, a vehicle to attract readers who are obsessed by lists of any kind; saying these are the most influential people in the world is, well, silly.
But it certainly is a good day for Gist.
I’m betting she doesn’t end her career in Rhode Island.
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| April 29, 2010; 12:36 PM ET
Tags: Time magazine, deborah gist, michelle rhee, most influential list, most influential people, time list of influential people, time mag's list of influential people
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