PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo’s pick to be Rhode Island’s next education commissioner said Tuesday she intends to focus on implementing existing policies rather than making dramatic changes to the state’s public schools.
But Angélica Infante-Green also acknowledged she isn’t satisfied with the state’s poor performance on the R.I. Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) exam, particularly in Providence.
“The implementation is where we falter,” Infante-Green told Eyewitness News. “The attention to details, how it gets carried out in the classroom, how professional learning is actually delivered to teachers or with teachers, that is hard.”
Infante-Green’s comments came shortly after the governor introduced her to a standing-room-only crowd of supporters, policymakers and elected officials at the State House. Her nomination to replace current Education Commissioner Ken Wagner will be considered by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education next week, although there is little doubt she will be confirmed.
A 48-year-old mother of two, Infante-Green was raised in New York City by parents who came from the Dominican Republic. Her career has taken her from teaching in the South Bronx to various leadership posts within the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department. She most recently served as the state’s deputy commissioner of the office of P-12 instructional support.
Infante-Green comes to Rhode Island as officials are showing a renewed sense of urgency on education following the November release of the results on the RICAS exam, which showed just 34% of students in grades three through eight were proficient in English language arts and 27% were proficient in math. In Massachusetts, where students take the same exam, the ELA proficiency rate was 51% and math proficiency rate was 48%.
She said Rhode Island is in “a good starting place” because the state already has high standards and a quality assessment, so she doesn’t see a need for overhauling existing programs.
“I think that everyone's exhausted with that and that's not what I'm going to do,” she said.
One area where Infante-Green does see a need for change is Providence, which will also see a leadership change when Superintendent Christopher Maher steps away from his post at the end of the school year. While previous commissioners have largely shied away from the capital city, she said she intends to be “very hands-on.”
“I think the scores have spoken,” she said. “There's no time for politics. There just isn’t. Right now is the time to do the work.”
She also said she expects to craft a blueprint for English language learners and a Parents’ Bill of Rights, two strategies she helped lead in New York. She said she’s looking forward to building coalitions as she seeks to improve the state’s schools.
“I think one of the most important things that you can take away from me is that I'm an advocate for everyone that does this work,” she said.