Legislation was introduced this week in the Rhode Island House of Representatives to advance the development of new statewide academic standards to be better aligned with the common curriculum. 

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Joseph McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), would “provide for the review of existing and the development of new statewide academic standards by the commissioner of education.” 

The act would also require that all curriculum frameworks be aligned with these standards as well as with the standardized state tests being implemented in the state, including the current Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS).

“Common Core State Standards are what a student should know when he or she graduates from a certain grade. The curriculum — the method by which those standards are taught — should be based upon those guidelines,” said McNamara, who also chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. 

The bill, according to McNamara, seeks to develop, share and maintain a consistent curriculum across the state “that is aligned with Common Core State Standards.”

“It will authorize the commissioner of education to review these standards and develop a statewide curriculum so that the standards, curriculum and assessments are all aligned and any gaps are eliminated,” McNamara continued. 

The legislation would also direct the commissioner of education to annually submit a report to the governor and the General Assembly on the progress of developing standards and curriculum frameworks.

The goal, McNamara said, was to give parents a clear map of what their children would be learning and have it be consistent statewide. 

“This is important for two reasons. First, Rhode Island is very small. There are school districts in the country that are as big as Rhode Island. There’s no reason why we can’t have a curriculum that is consistent throughout the state,” he said. “Second, and more importantly, there is a high rate of student mobility in Rhode Island that reaches the 22 to 24 percent range in some communities.” 

“Consistency will help students who move from school to school or from district to district, and keep them from being overwhelmed by substantial changes in what they’re learning,” he added. 

Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), who co-sponsored the bill, said that following the latest RICAS scores, Rhode Island needed to act “rather quickly.” 

“I think it’s important that we do things immediately to get the best possible outcomes for children,” Casimiro said Monday. 

RICAS–the state’s administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System–assesses the public education of Rhode Island in comparison to Massachusetts’, the nation’s highest-performing state. 

According to the results, Rhode Island scored 17 percentage points lower than Massachusetts in English Language Arts (ELA) and 20 percentage points lower in mathematics.

“I am a big supporter of education. I always have been,” Casimiro said. “I led the commission for later high school start times and I’m now leading a commission for school time learning and I just think that it’s up to us, as the adults, to do whatever we can to get the best possible outcomes for our young people.”

Casimiro also said she expects the bill to pass the Rhode Island House of Representatives.  

atrubia@ricentral.com

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