RIC partners with The Providence Journal, LRI to present three forums on timely topics

Rhode Island College, The Providence Journal and Leadership Rhode Island – three different and distinct state entities, all with a mission to educate and inform the public – will team up this fall to present PUBLICK OCCURRENCES, a series of forums that will examine three important issues of ongoing concern to the state.

“We each came to the table as equal partners with significant human resources and a commitment to the success of our state in solving problems,” said RIC President Nancy Carriuolo.

The first forum, “Building a Better Teacher for Rhode Island,” will be held on Monday, Sept. 12, 6-8 p.m. in RIC’s Sapinsley Hall, where three panels of experts, including teachers, administrators and academics, will offer a 360-degree civil discourse on the challenges facing Rhode Island’s public education system.

Discussions will touch on teaching in struggling schools, what it means to be a “hero teacher,” teaching responsibilities and criteria for teacher evaluations, and preparing aspiring teachers for a 21st-century education.

Panelists include:
Thomas Barbieri – Principal of the Year, Bain Middle School, Cranston
David Byrd – Director of URI’s School of Education
Colleen Callahan – Director of the R.I. Federation of Teachers & Health Professionals
Deborah Gist – K-12 Education Commissioner
Larry Purtill – Executive Director of the National Education Association, R.I.
Alexander Sidorkin – Dean of RIC’s School of Education
Diane Tourangeau – West Warwick teacher
Heather Tow-Yick - Executive Director of Teach for America in R.I.
David Upegui – Central Falls teacher

RIC, the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state, began in 1854 as The Normal School, one of the first in the country, established as a college to train high school graduates to become teachers. Though a liberal arts college since 1960, RIC still has the largest school of education in the state and prepares the majority of the state’s teachers, graduating about 300 students each year in the teacher education programs.

Alexander “Sasha” Sidorkin, dean of RIC’s School of Education, said that the greatest challenge in public education is the achievement gap among socio-economic groups.

“We need to spend significantly more time and resources on innovation, conducting rigorous research and developing new ideas. But the search for new ideas should not replace persistent improvement of standards, assessments, and teacher preparation and professional growth,” Sidorkin said.

RIC teachers-in-training, Sidorkin noted, come from the upper half of the college’s student body, score higher on SATs, get better grades overall, and hold more honors than non-teacher education students.

“What would help even more is a stronger message that teaching is an interesting, fulfilling career where one is treated with respect and has professional autonomy,” he said.

For the forum, Carriuolo said that in addition to providing the forum venue and expertise of campus participants, the college will supply clicker technology used in the classroom to capture audience opinions.

The PUBLICK OCCURRENCES forums continue on Oct. 3 with “The Pension Puzzle: What Can We Afford?” and on Nov. 7 with “War On Terror: R.I.s Returning Wounded Vets,” also to be held in Sapinsley Hall from 6-8 p.m.

Registration is required for the forums and seats will be reserved on a first come, first serve basis. To register, visit www.sept2011publickoccurrences.eventbrite.com; or call (401) 273-1574.