R.I. Needs Tough Education Standards

Article excerpt

As members of a coalition of business organizations representing employers of hundreds of thousands of individuals in Rhode Island, we are concerned about the status of Rhode Island's current and future labor force.

This concern was shared in the recent "Rhode to Work" report issued by the Rhode Island Senate, and the Governor's Workforce Board's Biennial Employment and Training Plan, which highlighted that Rhode Island faces a long-term, structural skills shortage that has the potential to undermine economic growth into the future.

The combination of the state's present labor force challenges and projected skills shortage demands structural policy reform. The Rhode Island Department of Education has made progress laying the foundation for the state to be in a better position to address these labor force challenges.

Over the past few years, RIDE has developed and implemented a strategic plan aimed at transforming the state's public education system. Of the five priorities in this strategic plan, the goal of establishing world-class standards and assessments has been met with considerable opposition. In particular, Rhode Island's adoption and implementation of the Common Core Standards; our use of standardized assessments such as the New England Common Assessment Program and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers; and the Rhode Island diploma system, which supports pathways toward a high school diploma, have challenged and been challenged by residents across the state.

Too often there are calls to weaken the progress RIDE has made in establishing and implementing these standards and initiatives. Most recently, legislation under consideration in the Senate Education Committee (S-2059 Sub A), would require that no state assessment or standardized testing program shall be used to determine a student's eligibility to graduate from high school.

This type of attempt to undo education reform runs the risk of making Rhode Island's workforce even less competitive than it currently is. By their very nature, the Common Core, NECAP, PARCC, and the diploma system are intended to be challenging - they aim to raise the bar, and to set goals for teaching and learning. Standards and assessments allow us to answer this question: Are our sons and daughters - our family and future workforce of tomorrow - learning what they should be learning? …