Carcieri discusses education at RIC forum

Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri thought RIC would be an appropriate venue for his discussion of “New Teachers for a New Economy.” On Dec. 6, the governor shared his views with a gathering of mainly students in Gaige Hall Auditorium.

Governor Donald L. Carcieri meets attendees before the start of his discussion.
Carcieri, who will be leaving office next month after eight years leading the state, said that because RIC sends the vast majority of new teachers into Rhode Island schools, it is in the “front line” of teacher preparation.

And it is a preparation that differs greatly from the days when Carcieri himself taught high school math after graduating from Brown University in 1965.

Thirty years ago, he noted, there were 135,000 manufacturing jobs out of the 500,000 jobs in Rhode Island. Today there are 35,000 such jobs, he said.

“The nature of the economy, not only in our state, but nationally, is changing dramatically,” said Carcieri.

The economy is much more reliant on technology-, digital- and computer-based jobs that require a different skill level than in the past, he explained.

To keep pace with the changing jobscape, a common set of standards in core curriculum is needed, he said.

It's an idea that has gained momentum, according to Carcieri.

The Ocean State is ahead of the curve in the area of common assessment, claimed Carcieri. Along with three other New England States – Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire – Rhode Island is part of NECAP (New England Common Assessments Program), the only initiative in the U.S. in which four states have united for this purpose.

The program, which was created in response to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, has as one of its stated goals, to make “assessments instructionally relevant by providing information to school administrators, teachers, and parents to help them make informed decisions about student instructional needs.”

Carcieri thinks NECAP has been an important tool in improving education. He noted that NECAP enables participating states to compare their student proficiency levels with other school districts in the other states.

In five years of NECAP, he noted that the students are increasing their proficiency in all areas, but he conceded, “We’re not where we need to be.”

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo greets Carcieri.
Assessments indicate that a gap exists between the poorer performing urban schools and the suburban and rural schools, but Carcieri said that the disparity is narrowing.

He said the formula for increased proficiency within the schools is having an orderly classroom, with better teachers. The old paradigm that teachers teach for several years get tenure, then are permanently set in their careers set is changing, he added.

“In business, you have tiers,” said Carcieri, whose own career included a stint as chief executive officer of Cookson America. He cited the value of having masters to train others, and the importance of making compensation for teachers competitive to attract “good people.”

He also called for breaking down barriers between PK-12, higher education, workforce development and business, to increase communication across disciplines that have a stake in education.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo said of Carcieri: “He’s setting in place the process and elements for reform that will carry us forward.”

After serving two terms as the state's top executive, Carcieri will turn over the issues of the day – including education – to incoming governor Lincoln Chafee in January.

Carcieri’s lecture was presented by RIC President Nancy Carriuolo and the college’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development. The discussion follows one Carcieri gave on Nov. 10 at the University of Rhode Island about science and technology.