U.S. Education Secretary Defends RI Commissioner Gist

Jun 4, 2013

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Rhode Islanders should look at progress made in its schools while weighing the fate of state education commissioner Deborah Gist. Duncan made the comment on a conference call with Rhode Island reporters.

In a call of support for Gist, Duncan touted rising test scores and graduation rates as signs that the state is making progress. Teachers and parents have been outspoken in their opposition to Gist. But Duncan defends her, calling her collaborative.

Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

“I think it’s really important that this work be done in a collaborative matter. There’s no way you’re going to continue to see improvement if all the adults: teachers, principals, the parents, the board, the commissioner they need to be working together,” said Duncan. “I always say education is like a family, when adults fight, kids lose.”  

Duncan couldn’t say if he’s ever done this kind of a press call before on behalf of a state education official, but said when media have questions he tries to be responsive.

Gist’s contract is up Friday, she’s likely to find out if it will be renewed on Thursday.

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