New regulations link teacher certification to educator evaluations

Posted 11/8/11

Teachers in Rhode Island are no longer required to develop an “individual learning plan” (I-Plan) every five years to renew their certification, nor are they required to complete specific courses …

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New regulations link teacher certification to educator evaluations


Teachers in Rhode Island are no longer required to develop an “individual learning plan” (I-Plan) every five years to renew their certification, nor are they required to complete specific courses or a set number of units of professional development, following approval of new regulations linking certification to educator evaluations by the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.

Instead, teachers will be evaluated each year and will receive one of four ratings: highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. According to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), an evaluation of “developing” or better is considered successful practice, which will allow teachers to be eligible to renew their certification. If a teacher receives evaluations of “ineffective” five years in a row, they will lose their certification.

Elliot Krieger, spokesman for RIDE, said evaluations are based on classroom observation; fulfillment of professional responsibilities, such as setting learning objectives, which are approved by the school leader that must be accomplished during the year; and evidence of student growth and achievement, which will be measured by statewide assessments and end of year exams, among other items. Krieger said teacher engagement with families and the school community as well as service to their school would also be factored in.

In a statement from RIDE, Regents Chairman George D. Caruolo said, “…For any teacher in Rhode Island who’s trying hard and is committed to their work – there’s nothing for them to fear in this.”

Krieger said while the certification renewal component will go into effect in January, educator evaluations are currently under way as part of the new educator evaluation model being implemented in schools throughout the state this year. Only Jamestown and Warwick are fully implementing the program on a pilot basis and are working with RIDE representatives to see what aspects work and which ones need revision before the model is rolled out and fully implemented in all districts next year.

Dennis Mullen, who has stepped away from his duties as principal of Pilgrim High School to work with RIDE on the pilot model, said the program has been going very well.

“We have someone helping us from the New Teacher Project, who’s also from RIDE, and all the stakeholders, including principals and teachers, have been very cooperative in doing this,” he said. “I’m very satisfied with the progress of the model being rolled out here full time.”

Mullen said as part of the pilot model, there are certain protocols that must be followed, which include conducting a self-assessment process, developing a professional growth plan and setting student learning objectives (SLOs).

“The department chairs and principals have been trained in that process,” he said of SLOs, which must be aligned to common core standards, integral to instruction and take into account where teachers expect students to be at the end of the year. “The professional growth plan refers to areas identified in the self-assessment process and becomes a guide to create action steps to fulfill goals and sets benchmarks for when they should be accomplished.”

Mullen said there are two types of evaluators, primary and complimentary. Principals and assistant principals will serve as primary evaluators while complimentary evaluators will include department heads and central office supervisors for teachers at the elementary level who don’t have department heads, such as K-6 music and science teachers.

In regards to where Warwick is in terms of the pilot model, Mullen said the district is establishing structure, testing the system, acclimating to the program and reporting anything to RIDE that can be streamlined.

Warwick Teachers Union President James Ginolfi said the new regulations don’t make sense.

“It doesn’t make a lot of common sense to tie in certification to an evaluation system that hasn’t been established yet,” he said. “They’re putting out a pilot this year and finding wrinkles in it. They’re basing certification on something that hasn’t been developed yet or test-run; it makes no sense.”

Ginolfi said he feels the regulations are part of a “knee-jerk reaction” nationwide on the reliance of annual testing.

“Relying on testing is not what education is all about. It’s detrimental to education to link testing to evaluations without taking into account all things that make a student successful,” he said. “Tests are only given in certain areas; how do you measure teachers that teach a subject that isn’t tested, such as history, or a guidance counselor? It’s sad to say that a lot of people making educational decisions aren’t making common sense.”

Ginolfi said he’s concerned the new regulations will force teachers to concentrate their efforts on preparing for an evaluation at the expense of other areas, such as lesson plans, which could be negatively affected.

“The main focus is on testing or preparing for an evaluation instead of spending valuable time preparing lessons and doing the work that they need to do,” he said.

Ginolfi said he’s also afraid that valuable professional development as well as teachers taking courses to deepen knowledge in their respective content areas will be lost since those components will no longer be required in order to renew certification. Although it’s no longer required, “Professional development will, however, continue to be an essential part of the system for improving instruction,” according to the statement from RIDE.

Krieger said as part of the objectives that are set at the beginning of the year and approved by the school leader, teachers would have to accomplish certain goals.

“If they need to take a course to make that happen, then by all means do it, but if they don’t need to, they don’t have to,” he said. “This is much more streamlined for teachers because it takes away the bureaucracy; all teachers have to do is get successful evaluations. It’s a streamlined system that will provide feedback to help out with improvement.”

Deborah A. Gist, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the new system would allow educators to focus on improving teaching and learning.

“By linking the certification of our educators to student achievement and to other evidence of effective performance, the Regents have taken a major step in our efforts to ensure that we have excellent teachers in every classroom and excellent leaders in every school,” she said in a statement.

According to RIDE, the current certification regulations were reviewed over the past two years by RIDE staff and many groups of stakeholders that provided input and feedback. The Board of Regents received comment from the public at three public hearings before voting on the new regulations, which were approved by a 7-2 vote on Nov. 3.

For more information, visit the RIDE website at, or to read a draft version of the new regulations, go to


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