I’ll be taking a closer look at the just-released scores from the national standardized NAEP tests later today, but initial reports suggest that Rhode Island slipped. Linda Borg’s Providence Journal story focuses on whether the switch to Common Core standards accounts for the dip, and that might be part of the story nationally. However, Rhode Island’s story is more detailed. I’ll pivot off the closing comment from Rhode Island’s new education commissioner, Ken Wagner:
“The answers are around us,” Wagner said. “We need to invest in our students, our teachers and in our economy. This isn’t about coming up with something new. We need to be focused on having the will to persist in what we know works.”
Wagner’s new, so it’s possible he’s not familiar with the history, but in the years that Rhode Island was actually pursuing education reform, our test scores, both NAEP and NECAP were on the rise, catching and surpassing the national average (in the case of NAEP). Then those “fix-the-system” reforms hit a political ceiling, with Governor Lincoln Chafee putting the brakes on the reform vehicle and the General Assembly beginning to dismantle it.
The most reasonable interpretation of recent history in Rhode Island is that the education establishment isn’t really interested in figuring out what works and “persisting” in it. Politicians and labor unions want to persist in what benefits them, and improving the lives of Rhode Island’s children is only permitted to the extent that it doesn’t disrupt that primary objective.