RIPEC Releases Analysis of 2019 Education Reform Legislation

Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council

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RIPEC Releases Analysis of 2019 Education Reform Legislation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (August 2019) – Today, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council released “Reforming Structures of Education Governance: Legislative Elementary and Secondary Education Reform in Rhode Island, 2019.” This report provides context for, and details of, a package of reforms to Rhode Island’s public elementary and secondary education system that was introduced by the General Assembly in May and signed into law in July. The full report is available here

To put education reform legislation in perspective, RIPEC’s report includes an abridged analysis of Rhode Island’s contemporary public education system through comparison to Massachusetts’ system, juxtaposing the 2018 performance of Bay State and Ocean State students on the RICAS and MCAS. Establishing Massachusetts’ superior education outcomes contextualizes the nature of 
Ocean State education reform in 2019, not only by helping explain the impetus for reform, but by offering insight into why legislators have sought to bring Rhode Island’s education system closer in line with that of Massachusetts.

RIPEC’s analysis centers on three sets of companion bills which 1) were introduced as components of comprehensive education reform by the General Assembly and 2) successfully passed into law. Collectively, this legislation is intended to reform systems of curriculum and instruction, as well as governance and accountability. Individually, each set of companion bills accomplishes the following:

1. House Bill 5008 Substitute B and Senate Bill 0863 Substitute B – These companion bills focus on creating state-wide alignment through systems of instruction. They require the development and implementation of statewide academic standards and curriculum frameworks for six core subjects, as well as the use of high-quality curriculum and materials for math, ELA, and science and technology. They also require RIDE to provide professional supports to schools and districts as they improve curriculum implementation. 

2. House Bill 6084 Substitute A and Senate Bill 0865 Substitute A – These companion bills move local education governance in the Ocean State closer to the school-based management model currently employed in the Bay State by altering the responsibilities of school committees and superintendents, expanding the responsibilities of school improvement teams, and establishing the roles and responsibilities of principals. They also provide for local accountability through evaluation, assessment, and review requirements.

3. House Bill 6085 Substitute A as Amended and Senate Bill 0869 Substitute A – These companion bills complement the legislation described above, providing a new certification pathway for aspiring principals that is intended to prepare applicants to operate effectively in a school-based management structure.

In its analysis, RIPEC compares the above bills to existing statutes in Massachusetts. While there are some significant differences, RIPEC’s analysis shows that Massachusetts’ education system served as a model for Rhode Island reforms, with large sections of reform legislation detailing the same mandates as in Massachusetts statute, and even utilizing the same wording.

RIPEC’s analysis focuses primarily on legislation that was signed into law, but additionally details four sets of companion bills that were initially conceived as part of the General Assembly’s education reform package. Finally, RIPEC examines additions to Rhode Island’s FY 2020 Budget that are intended to support the implementation of the legislation described above.  

“Education is one of the most important functions of state and municipal governments,” said RIPEC’s President and CEO, John C. Simmons. He continued, “this package of reform legislation is significant as it has the potential to fundamentally reshape education in Rhode Island.” 

RIPEC is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan public policy research and education organization dedicated to the advancement of effective, efficient, and equitable government in Rhode Island.  For more information about RIPEC, please visit our website at www.ripec.org.