by Benjamin Branchaud
The Common Core standards, marketed as a system to determine what is expected of students at each grade level, will be the basis of standardized testing beginning with freshman from the class of 2019.
House Bill 7256, which will be heard today, seeks to postpone testing on the Common Core standards until 2019, when students will have had a full four years of instruction on the standards.
State Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34) is signed on to the bill and feels strongly about the educational system and the need to introduce new systems gently and with care.
"You can't just create an effective curriculum overnight and then test our students on it and have them be held accountable on an untested and unproven curriculum that was just established," said Tanzi. "We're holding them accountable for a curriculum they haven't been exposed to."
Tanzi does not necessarily oppose the Common Core standards, but sees a need to test them and examine them more closely.
"You need to make sure that before schools are ruining student's lives by not graduating them, that the curriculum they created is tested, tried and true," she said. "Here we are doing very little in reality to improve or accelerate the implementation of this. I do not - in any way, shape or form - want to lower the standards. I just want to make sure that our students aren't guinea pigs."
Massachusetts, which is in a three-state educational consortium with Rhode Island and New York, recently took a similar position on the implementation of a new curriculum.
"In Massachusetts, when they created their own curriculum, they took 10 years to phase it in," said Tanzi. "Then they invested millions of dollars into districts throughout the state, creating an opportunity for schools to really implement the curriculum well. This clearly has an impact on students in our (the South Kingston/Narragansett) district. You can't create it in one shot. You can't write a brilliant novel without any edits. Rhode Island, so far, has refused to reconsider implementation. Our commissioner has said 'We're not going backwards.' If we see that something is not going well, we have to respond. This is not about pride or ego. This is about our kids."
South Kingston Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow is enthusiastic about the bills, including this one, that are in the general assembly regarding education.
"This looks to me like a philosophical look at 'What is the role of a state assessment?' It's very important," she said. "I'm looking at 12 different bills right now that are very thoughtfully presented. Every single sentence and paragraph, from my perspective, has a lot of information in it that would be impactful to our educational setting."