A series of constituent meetings hosted by State Rep. Deborah Ruggiero focusing on public education kicked off on Dec. 10 with a town-hall style conversation with Angélica Infante-Green, state Commissioner of Education, and Middletown Supt. Rosemarie Kraeger.
In her introduction, Ruggiero quipped that with the recent takeover by the state of Providence schools, some people may be unaware that Infante-Green’s job title covers all of Rhode Island’s 47 school districts.
Aware of the local conversation buzzing throughout Aquidneck Island on school district consolidation, Infante-Green was careful not to step into the fray, offering the opinion that regional districts should collaborate when feasible. She said that educational stakeholders, especially parents, should seek out data and methods that have proven successful in other states.
“In New York state, you can’t graduate high school without passing five regents exams, which are just as hard as the SAT,” she said.
For Middletown, she said there was room for improvement, citing the most recent results of the statewide RICAS test scores.
“We [in Middletown High School] are 59 percent proficient in ELA and 38 proficient in math. So, we have work to do,” she said. “It’s better than a lot of other districts. But still not good enough.”
For Middletown’s middle schoolers, the proficiency percentages for ELA and math were 40 and 33 percent, respectively.
“Who are the districts and the schools that have figured it out? Those are the places that we need to visit. Do they have the same demographics? What does it look like? What are they doing differently?” she asked, expressing surprise when she learned this was not something Rhode Island’s officials had prioritized.
Infante-Green was asked about the state funding particular to Middletown, which many residents feel is inadequate, placing too heavy a burden on the municipality funded mainly through property taxes. Although cautioned against “misinformation” being shared about the exact ratios of state to local funding, she vowed to dive into the numbers and touted the increase in total educational funding she has requested from the General Assembly.
“Our budgets drive what happens in schools and not the other way around,” she said. “The needs of the schools should drive the budgets.”
Editor’s note: See a Q&A with Infante Green in the Dec. 5 edition of NTW.
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