The quality of a child's experience of learning at school is primarily dependent on the quality of the teacher. School climate, responsiveness to parents, facilities, funding — these things all matter, but teachers matter the most.
The three strategic areas currently targeted for attention are: Hiring and evaluation systems, professional development, and teacher-preparation programs.
RIDE has created both model teacher evaluations and Human Resource systems that support effectiveness among all teachers, new and experienced, in every content area, in a new system called EPSS. Rhode Island's American Federation of Teachers (one of two state-level teachers unions) received a large grant to support their collaboration with the state and districts on creating evaluations and supportive hiring systems.
Evaluation will raise questions about specific areas in which teachers might be weak and need additional professional development. Districts and schools will use evaluation data to design professional development on both a school-wide basis, and for individual professionals.
RIDE has redesigned the system they use to license teachers. In the future, a teacher's ability to continue to be licensed for public schools will take into account that teacher's effectiveness to improve student achievement.
Rhode Island has eight colleges and universities that offer traditional teacher-preparation. RIDE is working directly with all of them to improve their quality.
Also, Rhode Island has an alternative-certification program that is relatively new to the state. Teach for America specializes in training recent college graduates to work in under-served urban or rural areas.