Rhode Island’s first round of RICAS results are in but have not yet been released to the public. As with everything in this current climate, critics of the current governor, Gina Raimondo, are convinced that she is hiding the scores because surely they must be disastrous. And maybe they are. On the other hand, the first round of a new test—and Lord knows we change them often enough—does require results to be analyzed so that cut scores can be set. So it would logically take longer to release them the first time around than in following years.
Let’s apply a bit of common sense and conventional wisdom to the situation: If the results were strong, we would have heard about them. Maybe not in great detail but we would know that, for the first time in basically forever, the Ocean State had crushed an annual statewide assessment. And it is true that all the whisperings and off-the-record commentary behind the scenes are that the results are not good. And what incumbent wants to be talking about that just days before the election?
But here’s the deal, at least for me: Gina Raimondo is the strongest education candidate on the ballot. She understands the research about the importance of 3rd grade reading scores. She knows that parents need more options when it comes to their children’s education and that zip code (often a proxy for family income) can’t be the sole determining factor in where a child attends school. She is one of only two Democrats running for governor—in the country—who is ranked strong on both opportunity and innovation by the Center for Education Reform; Republican candidate Alan Fung did not receive as strong a rating. Gina is tackling the urgent issue of crumbling schools in a way that none of her predecessors ever had the political will to do because she actually believes that all students are entitled to a public school that is warm, safe, and dry. Imagine that.
Raimondo’s opponents—Republican Alan Fung and Independent Joe Trillo—have predictably seized on the test score issue and if either of them had anything smart to say about improving K-12 education, maybe I’d be more willing to jump on their bandwagon. But their attacks on her for allegedly withholding test results are just as political as delaying the scores would be so at the end of the day, while both are frustrating, they are just noise in the closing days of a midterm election.
But hold on tight everyone because if you aren’t already shaken up by our state’s 3rd place ranking for teacher absenteeism or our rank of 46th in 8th grade math, I suspect that the RICAS results may be a wake up call about how poorly we are doing across the board. If we care about the future of our children and our state’s economy, we must expect more.
So no matter who wins Tuesday, he or she will have their work cut out for them if they want to get anywhere close to neighboring Massachusetts in the quality of education Rhode Island provides to its children. And I look forward to demanding that we do.
Update: This piece was updated to correct that claim that Gina Raimondo is the only Democrat governor with positive ratings from the Center for Education Reform for both education innovation and opportunity. Democrat Jared Polis running in Colorado also does.