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Guest MINDSETTER™ Heather Tow-Yick, Kelsey Lucas: What Rhode Islanders Need in ESEA Reauthorization

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

 

As Congress debates reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, our nation’s education law, it is essential that the law provides schools, teachers, and parents with the necessary tools to monitor all children’s progress and, as important, that we have policies in place to ensure action is taken when students are chronically underserved by our education system.

There is no greater injustice than the disparity in educational opportunities that disproportionately limit the life outcomes of children growing up in low-income communities. Here in Rhode Island, all too often the neighborhood a child calls home and her parents’ paycheck predict the breadth of educational opportunity available to her.  Rhode Island’s four year graduation rate, for example, looks promising at 80 percent. For low-income students, however, that number drops to 69 percent. And for special education students, the number dips again to 59 percent. This inequity fetters the strength of our economy and our communities.

Rhode Island’s teachers, school leaders and administrators are working hard every day for real progress and those closest to the  work – our states - are in the best position to  implement real change for their own students.  However, the realities of what is going on cannot be ignored and in order to see real progress, the federal law must require states to identify and provide evidence-based interventions for our lowest performing schools and lowest performing students.

There are too many stories of kids that came into our classrooms hearing that because they didn’t speak English as their first language or because they learned in a different way than other kids, they shouldn’t have to take a test.  This is the same as telling them we don’t think you should have the same opportunities as other kids, or we don’t think you should have access to the same educational opportunities as your peers.  All kids deserve to graduate college and career ready, and the parents of English language learners or special education students deserve to know how their children are performing as compared to their classmates and their peers statewide. 

Test results are just one measure of student learning and achievement, but if we really want parents to be empowered, then providing them data on how their kids are doing every year, compared to others across the state, and dividing that data by categories of race, ethnicity, gender, English language learners, and income background, is what needs to be done so that they can make educated choices about their child’s education.  Measuring shared high expectations for all of our children with a statewide annual assessment is critical in gauging how our schools and children are progressing and ensuring that parents, educators, and policymakers have the information they need to make good decisions. We cannot go back to the days of masking the performance of some students to promote a false picture of school success.

Rhode Island’s representatives in Washington have a pivotal opportunity to craft national education policy that supports local efforts to innovate towards student success while ensuring that there is meaningful accountability when schools are failing a group of, or all of, their students. Congress owes it to our students, families and communities to pass a reauthorization of ESEA that ensures all children, regardless of their race or ethnicity, where they come from, or how they learn, have the opportunity to succeed.

Heather Tow-Yick

Heather Tow-Yick is the executive director of Teach For America in Rhode Island. Kelsey Lucas is a seventh grade Math teacher at the Paul Cuffee School, a Maritime Charter School for Providence Youth, and a 2011 Teach For America-Rhode Island alumna.

 

Related Slideshow: RI Experts on the Biggest Issues Facing Public Education

On Friday November 22, the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, the Latino Policy Institute of Roger Williams University, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, the Providence Student Union, and RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now will host Rhode Island leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors for a symposium on "the civil rights issue of the 21st century, adequacy and equity and the State of Education in Rhode Island."

Weighing in on the the "three biggest factors" facing education in the state today are symposium participatnts Gary Sasse, Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Leadership; Christine Lopes Metcalfe, Executive Director of RI-CAN; Anna Cano-Morales, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, Central Falls Public Schools and Director, Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University; Tim Duffy, Executive Director, RI Association of School Committees; and Deborah Cylke, Superintendent of Pawtucket Public Schools.  

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Sasse

"Provide a state constitutional guarantee that all children will have access to  an education that will prepare them to meet high performance standards and be successful adults.

Bridge the gap between the educational achievement of majority and minority students.  This will require the implementation of a comprehensive agenda for quality education in Rhode Island’s inner cities."

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Sasse

"Revisit school governance and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the state, school districts , neighborhood schools, and school teachers and school administrators.  Develop and implement a system to hold schools responsible for student outcomes."

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Sasse

"Build a consensus and buy in of all stakeholders around  the education reform initiatives being advanced by the Board of Education."

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Metcalfe

"Set high expectations and raise our standards across the state for anyone that contributes to the success of our students. From adopting the Common Core to discussing rigorous teacher evaluations, conversations around creating a culture of high expectations have to be at the center of the work."

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Metcalfe

"Expand opportunities and start earlier - we must ensure that all kids have access to a high performing public school of their choice, which includes full-day kindergarten."

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Metcalfe

"School facilities - with an aging infrastructure, underutilized buildings and the need to provide fair funding for school facilities for all public school students regardless of the public school they attend, this needs to be a top issue tackled by the RI General Assembly in 2014."

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Cano-Morales

"Meet the academic potential of all students but especially with regards to urban schools students -- 3 out of 4 are Latinos in Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket." 

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Cano-Morales

"Connect through specific best practices the academic successes of our students to careers jobs. Investing in schools is economic development as a whole for Rhode Island. " 

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Cano-Morales

"Increase the access to -- and completion of -- higher education and post- secondary opportunities.  Poverty? Struggling families? Education and access to careers and competitive wages is the best antidote."

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Duffy

"Providing adequate funding is critical -- and there are going to be pressures on the state budget, which mean stresses to meet the education funding formula.  With the predictions of the state's projected loss of revenue with the casinos in MA, education funding could be on the cutting board, and we need to ensure that it's not.  Do we need to look at strengthening the language of the constitution to guarantee funding?"

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Duffy

"Implementing the common core standards will provide continuity -- and comparison -- between states now.  With over 40 states involved, we're embarking a new set of standards here."

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Duffy

"Accountability and assessing student performance -- how that it's driven by the common core, we'll be able to compare the best districts in RI against the best districts in say MA.  That's the intent of the Common Core is a standardization of how we hold the system accountable."

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Cylke

"Issue one is quality.  Your quality of education should not be dependent on your zip code.  And the reality is, certain cities are distressed, or whose property values are not as high, I know each town has a different capacity to fund education. There's an absolute, clear relationship between the quality of public schools, and economic development of states. There's irrefutable evidence that quality public schools can make states more competitive."

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Cylke

"Issue two is equality.  In West Warwick and Providence, the per pupil spending is around $16K.  In Pawtucket it's $12.9.  What's wrong with that picture? If I'm in charge of overseeing that my students are college ready, they need to be adequate funding.  A difference of $3000 per pupil?  We're talking in the tens of millions of dollars -- more like $25 million in this case.  An exemplary school district is Montgomery County, MD -- they have roughly the same number of students, around 145,000 -- there's one funding figure per pupil. There's equitable funding for all kids."

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Cylke

"Issue three is Infrastructure.  A critical issue is whether the state is going to lift its moratorium in 2014 for renovations for older schools, ore new construction.  If that moratorium is not lifted, and those funds are not available, it is critical to us here in Pawtucket. The average of my schools is 66 years, I've got 3 that celebrate 100 years this year. These old schools have good bones, but they need to be maintained.  These are assets -- and this is all interrelated with the funding formula."

 
 

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