On Jan. 7, District 19 Rep. Joseph McNamara (Warwick, Cranston) introduced legislation that would review current standards to create a statewide curriculum that aligns with the federal Common Core.
McNamara would like to see a consistent curriculum implemented throughout the state, goals for each grade level that are in conjunction with Common Core standards, so that every Rhode Island student will have access to a world-class education and to fill any academic achievement gaps.
“I think that everyone saw the results of the RICAS test, looked at those results, and to me, it gave me a certain sense of urgency,” McNamara said. “If our curriculum, if our goals for each grade level are not aligned with the Common Core, that is the first place we should look at to improve our test scores.”
McNamara also explained that the inconsistency of the curriculums across the state is detrimental to many. According to McNamara, 22 percent of the students who are in an urban setting will move between cities.
“A state the size of Rhode Island should have a consistent curriculum throughout the state,” he said. “What we have now in terms of curriculums or course offerings, it lacks consistency. I believe a rigorous curriculum where students can demonstrate their competency at achieving those standards would benefit our entire state.”
McNamara believes the best way to achieve a consistent and rigorous curriculum is to give local school systems a “best-practice curriculum.” This curriculum will inform parents of what their student is learning, what courses at the high school level students will be taking and the expectations for those courses. This will allow students to receive an education that prepares them for the 21st century workforce.
“We know that the jobs of the future will depend on a well-educated workforce,” McNamara said. “It’s an opportune moment to analyze current curriculum framework and make sure if there are gaps, that we fill those gaps.”
McNamara’s legislation also mentions the submission of an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly to report progress in developing standards and curriculum. He explained that this is important because the state legislature and Governor must ensure that the Rhode Island Department of Education is performing at a level that will result in increased test scores.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that every Rhode Island student, regardless of their zip code, receives a world-class education,” he said. “That is our responsibility as legislators and elected officials.”
Rhode Island has already reorganized the teacher preparation program at Rhode Island College, which McNamara believes is a positive beginning. However, to find the best solutions, professionals on all levels should collaborate.
“There’s a lot more we can do by working with professionals that are in our classroom every day,” McNamara said. “I have had some suggestions with Commissioner [Ken] Wagner and I think some of this is aligned with the objectives he has.”
McNamara’s legislation also holds the Department of Education responsible for coordinating efforts to organize and revise the state’s curriculums and school system.
Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner could not be reached for comment. However, RIDE Communications Director Meg Geoghegan provided the Beacon with the following statement:
“We do have strong standards and curriculum frameworks for our students, but we’re happy to review what is in place and provide an overview of how those standards align to our updated system of assessments. We’re excited to see the legislature kick-off the 2019 session with an immediate focus on education, and we look forward to working with them this year to advance educational priorities that benefit all students.”