Gist addresses lawmakers

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist made her annual State of Education address to the General Assembly on Tuesday.

The commissioner addressed the lawmakers who in part determine how much money goes to education, and her predominant message was support the students.

"As many of you know from my first day as commissioner of education, I have promised that every decision I make will be in the best interest of our students," Gist said.

But while lawmakers listened, representatives of a teachers' union were circulating a survey that shows 88 percent of teachers do not believe morale in the school system is acceptable.

"If they demand accountability of every classroom teacher, and they should, if they demand accountability of every student, and they should, we should demand accountability of the commissioner of education. She has been judged and found wanting by the people who report to her," said Bob Walsh of the National Education Association Rhode Island.

Students from the Providence Student Union rallied outside the State House to protest Gist's policies, especially the emphasis on testing.

"We are opposed to testing because of all of its numerous flaws. Students and districts start to care more about scores than they do about actual teaching," said Cauldierre McKay of Classical High School.

But Gist has displayed no wavering on her mission to reform the state's education performance.

"All of us understand that every step that we take to advance public education will help advance the economic prosperity of our state," Gist said.

Gist, who is at the end of her contract and is negotiating with the state Board of Education, says Rhode Island has plenty of resources and that it's incumbent on all parties to work together for the betterment of the students.