The work of transforming our public schools is filled with joys and success and challenges and change. As we head into the final year of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s five-year strategic plan, Rhode Island has certainly seen much success and much change. But our work of ensuring that every child in our state has access to a great public school is not done.
In the past five years, Rhode Island has made remarkable strides in reforming our system to be one that is set up to prepare students to be college and career-ready. We’ve changed the way we’re funding education using a student-centric funding formula to ensure that money follows the child to whatever public school he or she attends. We’ve expanded school choice and opened more high-performing schools for our most underserved students. We’ve instituted an educator evaluation system that promotes a culture of improvement and excellence, reformed career and technical standards, created more rigorous teacher certification requirements and have begun the hard work of setting higher standards for all kids with our adoption of the 44 states Standards.
And the change is starting to take shape. High school performance across the state has shown a positive upward trend since 2009, with increases in proficiency in both math and reading on the NECAP by 9 percentage points and 8 percentage points, respectively.1 Rhode Island also scored higher than the national average for the first time in all four NAEP tests in both reading and math.
Of course, there have been challenges too. Though our high school NECAP performance has improved from 2009 to 2013, we still have many students not prepared for college and career. In the 2012-13 school year, 69 percent of the students had to enroll in at least one remedial course at the Community College of Rhode Island, costing students around $5.4 million–all without earning college credit.2
This report serves as an annual look at the anatomy of our system, who it serves and how it’s working. We believe in the power of data to drive conversations about change and how to move forward.
The most important lesson of the past five years has been the need to work together. We may not always agree on every policy or strategy to transform our schools, but the goal is the same: to give Rhode Island students a world-class education, to hold all of our students to the highest standards and to prepare our graduates to be ready for the world in which they will live and work.