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Education Commissioner Gist calls for innovations, world-class standards

In annual address, Commissioner commends schools for “rallying around their students”


Emphasizing the importance of investments and innovations in such areas as programs for early learning, innovations powered by technology, and improvements in mathematics achievement, Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist tonight (April 30, 2013) delivered her fourth annual State of Education address to the members of the General Assembly. 

Commissioner Gist’s address, “Stepping Up for Success: The State of Education in Rhode Island,” focused on preparing Rhode Island students for success in the global economy. The Commissioner commended students, parents, teachers, and school leaders for stepping up to meet this challenge.

“As I visit with students and teachers across the state, I see schools rallying around their students - putting programs in place to bring them the supports they need to improve their performance,” Commissioner Gist said.

During her address, Commissioner Gist reported that, in the fall, the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) will hold a second annual statewide conference on innovation powered by technology.

“Technology is not just a tool that can enhance education,” Commissioner Gist said. “Technology can improve the very nature of instruction.”

The Commissioner reported on several initiatives in which Rhode Island schools are working to meet international standards.

“We must focus on preparing students for success in Rhode Island and on preparing Rhode Islanders for success in the world,” Commissioner Gist said. “In our state, we have the capacity, the policies, and the public support we need to make our schools America’s best – and among the best in the world. We are making progress, but we have a long way to go before we meet our goals.”

Commissioner Gist recognized the achievements of the State and District Teachers of the Year, the 2012 Milken Educator Award Winner, the Golden Apple Award winners, the Superintendent and the Principals of the Year, and the Boys and Girls Robotics Teams from Providence Career and Technical Academy.

Commissioner Gist also recognized 12 schools for significant improvements and accomplishments:

  • The Blackstone Academy charter public school
  • The Burrillville Middle School
  • Mount Hope High School (Bristol Warren)
  • The North Smithfield Middle School
  • North Providence High School
  • The Pleasant View School (Providence)
  • Ponaganset High School (Foster-Glocester)
  • Smithfield Senior High School
  • The Suzanne M. Henseler Quidnesset Elementary School (North Kingstown)
  • The Stephen Olney School (North Providence)
  • Times2 Academy (Providence)
  • West Warwick Senior High School.

“Every school that I have called out for recognition tonight has achieved success through great instruction and robust student support – not through worksheet overload and uninspired test preparation that deadens the mind and dulls enthusiasm,” Commissioner Gist said.

(For further information on these schools, see the Fact Sheet: Twelve Schools That Are Stepping Up for Success.)

Recognizing that this year about 4,100 high-school juniors must improve their performance on the state mathematics assessment in order to graduate with their class, Commissioner Gist commended students, educators, and family members for “stepping up” to meet this challenge. She noted that schools have provided students with additional support through such initiatives as afterschool and summer programs and through the free, online Virtual Learning Math Modules that RIDE has developed.

“Regardless of what happened in the past, we must help our students in the present – to prepare them for the future,” Commissioner Gist said. “The right thing to do is to prepare our students for success now – while it is our responsibility, and while it is their right.”

“Never give up on our students,” Commissioner Gist concluded. “They will rise to meet our expectations. They can do anything they aspire to do if they have the support, the confidence, and the will to succeed.”

The complete text of the speech is posted on this page.