RIC hosts education legislation signing ceremony Dec. 2

Gov. Carcieri signs education legislation as, from left, Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed, Rep. Joseph McNamara, Commissioner Deborah Gist, Sen. Hanna Gallo, Sen. Juan Pichardo and Commissioner Steven Maurano look on.

Gov. Carcieri signs education legislation as, from left, Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed, Rep. Joseph McNamara, Commissioner Deborah Gist, Sen. Hanna Gallo, Sen. Juan Pichardo and Commissioner Steven Maurano look on.
Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri said the series of bills and resolutions highlighted at the event will establish a new standard for measuring graduation/dropout rates, expand higher education opportunities, support extended learning time, help ensure teacher quality and promote early identification of children with autism disorders.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo hosts the event.
A new package of education-related bills was signed into law by Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri at a ceremony in RIC’s Alger Hall on Dec. 2. RIC President Nancy Carriuolo said the college was “an appropriate and symbolic location” considering the subject of the laws being enacted, all of which directly affect the state’s largest teacher education institution in the state.

Carcieri was joined by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Sen. Juan Pichardo, Sen. Hanna Gallo, Rep. Joseph McNamara, Board of Regents Chairman Robert Flanders, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah A. Gist, Acting Commissioner of Higher Education Steven J. Maurano, and several education and community leaders.

The legislation would continue to build on an educational outlook for Rhode Island that he said has been growing brighter.

“Every single year our youngsters are improving, their proficiencies are rising,” Carcieri said. He also said that the gap in proficiencies between urban students and other populations was “beginning to narrow.”

Among the pieces of legislation signed was an act authorizing the “Bachelors Degree in Three” program, which allows Rhode Island students to earn a bachelors degree at a state college or university within three years.

Gov. Carcieri speaks at the signing ceremony.
Rep. Joseph McNamara, lead sponsor of the bill, said that reducing degree completion time would save money for students and their families and would benefit the state because students who earn a degree in three years will enter the workforce sooner.

Also signed into law was an act that codifies into Rhode Island General Law the use of a formula to calculate an “on-time” four-year cohort graduation rate for students in Rhode Island public high schools.

Sponsored by Pichardo, the legislation reinforces implementation of the new definition as required by the United States Department of Education so that on-time graduation rates are comparable across all states. Rhode Island is one of the first states to track and report on-time graduation rates, starting with the class of 2008.

A third act that becomes law will promote public awareness of and the uses of early intervention services for children with autism. Sponsored by Rep. Peter Palumbo, the law requires the Rhode Island departments of Health, Human Services and Education, and Rhode Island College to work collaboratively to implement programs that better identify and serve children with autism.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo noted that the three new education acts are “areas of special interest to RIC.” She noted that they would directly concern the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, and that the autism legislation would be of significance to the Sherlock Center on Disabilities at RIC.

Rep. Joseph McNamara discusses the new
'Bachelors Degree in Three' act.
Three joint House and Senate resolutions were also showcased at the ceremony

A resolution sponsored by Sen. Hanna Gallo, House Majority Leader Gordon Fox and several other members of the state Senate and House, supports the “Race to the Top” grant program and urges the Governor and the Department of Education to submit a competitive application that will allow the state to accelerate reform efforts in a number of areas.

Paiva Weed said, “We have a real opportunity to use stimulus funds” that includes Race to the Top program.

Another resolution will create a 20-member special legislative study commission to examine the establishment of a plan for a new generation of teacher education in Rhode Island. The commission, which will report back to the General Assembly, will assess the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs and the capacity in critical-need areas as well as expectations of new teachers, differentiated staffing plans and performance pay options.

And a resolution sponsored by Rep. Edwin Pacheco establishes a 13-member special legislative taskforce charged with creating a comprehensive study of summer learning programs.