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R.I. Schools Chief Helps Deliver New Funding Formula

Whether you agree with her policy positions or not, it would be hard to deny that Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island's education commissioner, is having quite a run as that state's schools chief.

In today's good news for Gist, Rhode Island, for the first time in nearly two decades, will have a statewide funding formula for public schools that supporters say will bring equitable funding to districts that serve large numbers of poor students.

That victory comes on top of a string of other thorny issues where we've seen Gist prevail: setting the highest test-score requirement for those who want to enter Rhode Island's teacher training programs and crafting one of the more aggressive teacher assignment reforms in the Race to the Top competition. That plan would ensure that no student would be taught by a teacher deemed "ineffective" for more than one year and would ban districts from assigning ineffective teachers to low-income, low-performing or high-minority schools. Gist is also working on doing away with the practice of principals being forced to take teachers that they don't want because of seniority rules.

Of course, Gist is best known outside Rhode Island for her staunch support for the firings of all the teachers at the low-performing Central Falls High School earlier this year. That episode put low-performing schools in the national spotlight as President Obama praised the move and teachers' unions assailed it.

And there was that ego-boosting placement of Gist on the 2010 Time 100 list. Gist will mark her first year anniversary on July 1.

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