RI Leaders Call for a “State of Emergency” for RI’s Schools
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Gary Sasse who heads the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University says immediate action needs to take place and it needs to start at the top with Governor Gina Raimondo. And, Saul Kaplan who heads the Business Innovation Factory, one of the top innovation consulting companies in the U.S., says the new test results show Rhode Island needs to declare a ‘State of Emergency’ to improve its schools.
Last Week, Rhode Island education officials released the most recent test results and overall Rhode Island children performed 17 percent lower for English Language Arts and 20 percent lower in Math than their Massachusetts counterparts.
In a sweeping interview on GoLocal LIVE's Business Monday, Sasse and GoLocal CEO Josh Fenton broke down how other states have been successful in reforming their education systems.
How did we get here?
Sasse: Well, we got here for three or four reasons and the best way to figure out how we got here is to look at what Massachusetts did right and what we did wrong. The first is a constitutional reason — when people in Massachusetts challenged the adequacy and equity of the [funding] formula…the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Courts said they had a case and that put enough pressure on the political class that they had to fix it and that’s about 25, 30 years ago. We’ve challenged it several times — I’ve written several amicus briefs and first challenged it with good friend Buddy Cianci in ’81.
So we do not have education as a fundamental enforceable right. Give parents and give educators several to force change when the system is not performing and particularly not pulling well for disadvantaged kids. So we have a constitutional problem.
Second is a problem of political will. When Massachusetts reformed its system it was comprehensive and consistent and through both Democrat and Republican Governors it has stayed the same — there was strong Senate leadership by [Willaim] Bulger, and you know Governor [Bill] Weld, and while it hasn’t been as perfect as the people of Massachusetts would lead you to believe, it has been basically comprehensive and consistent compared to Rhode Island’s piecemeal [approach]. We lack the political will.
Governors of various states say my ‘job one’ is educating my kids — my job [as Governor] one is making certain there’s good performance, high performance in my schools — my job one is making sure we’re meeting their highest educational expectations. We give lip service to this. But I go back and look at [Massachusetts] Governor Weld and I look back at Governor [Jim] Hunt in North Carolina. In most states, [they’ve] turned around their education system because it’s the governor’s force of will that they wouldn’t rationalize underachieving. They wouldn’t take no for an answer, they didn’t worry about corporate welfare, they worried about the welfare of kids. What this cries out for is leadership.
I’ll also say this is an opportunity. Parents really need to come forward and start to talk about these things in a different way. We have to get parents more involved. We have to do right institutionally to get parents more involved. We know what the consequences are — we have been a bottom ten economy state decade after decade.
Kaplan says parents may be forced to start filing lawsuits
Kaplan warns that the failure of our schools is directly linked to our economy and our first in and last out of the recessions cycle. He warns that there is likely to be a series of lawsuits by parents who are forced to litigate to ensure that children get a quality education in Rhode Island
Kaplan: There’s reason to be angry because there’s nothing new here. We’ve known this we knew we were underperforming. Massachusetts put in this test 20 years ago.
We can broaden the measures — is it the standardized test or are there other ways to broaden competence? But if we don’t get the education piece right -- and I’m not talking tweaks or increments -- I’m talking transformation and leadership that’s bold enough to clear the way for this — my mantra is students are waiting. How long does our youth need to sit and wait for the adults in the room — our leaders — to wake up and to get this right?
Twenty years ago Massachusetts put this in — and it’s not just putting in a way to measure, they put in graduation requirements that if don’t reach them collectively, we’re all to blame, and there are consequences that relate not only to holding students back, so that [they] make sure that the students that graduate from schools in Massachusetts are actually capable and competent and can perform at high levels in the higher education system. We've resisted the test. We need to hold the whole system accountable. We’re just now on agreeing on a test — we don’t agree on consequences and a requirement that the diploma actually means something.
How many different ways should we be embarrassed to the point of anger? Is it neighboring communities just over the border — three miles away — performing significantly better? Let’s take our best performing schools — and they don’t perform anywhere near the top — nowhere near the top 10% barrier — this is a burning problem. I’m surprised we don’t see more lawsuits. I think the federal lawsuit [filed by Rhode Islanders last week about civic education] should be just about the basics, never mind adding things like civics. How about lawsuits that say we’re entitled to an education — and when you look at the scores and see we perform 20% under our neighboring state.
Why are we first in and last out of any recession? Our economy is too dependent on lower-wage service jobs, which are great as entry level but if you have to depend on that, you just can’t. There’s no upward mobility or ladder — there’s no education system. We’re not ready for the new economy.
In theory, this is the perfect place to reform education, yet we look as fragmented as anywhere else. If we can’t all move in concert — to standards of achievement — it doesn’t happen in one political cycle. Obviously, the usual approaches aren’t working. The political leadership isn’t there. And let’s be honest, the folks of privilege and means send their kids to private school. You’ve got to focus on the urban areas. These are the folks are being left behind. The impetus for political change has to happen around urban centers. Everyone gives lip service to the students…says it’s about the students. It’s nonsense. It’s about everything but students.
Related Slideshow: 2017-2018 RICAS Math Rankings for “Meeting or Exceeding Expectations”
The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) released performance results on November 29, 2018 for students in grades 3 through 8 on the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System, or RICAS. The 2017-2018 school year was the first year of implementation for the RICAS, which is the Rhode Island administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), the assessment tool of the nation’s highest-performing state for public education.
Data was suppressed to "ensure confidentiality" for Urban Collaborative, the RI School for the Deaf, and Trinity Academy for Performing Arts because greater than 95% of students did not meet expectations; data was suppressed to "ensure confidentiality" for DCYF because the minimum reporting size of ten was not met.
Below are the rankings of school districts -- and charter schools -- with the data provided by RIDE.
Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy
Students Meeting or Exceeding Expectations:
- 85% of Providence Students Not Meeting Expectations on Latest Statewide Test—RI Leaders Speak Out
- RICAS Math Rankings: RI’s Top - and Worst - Districts and Charters
- RICAS ELA Rankings: RI’s Top - and Worst - Districts and Charters
- Fung and Raimondo Are Battling Over Schools But Saying Little About Education Results
- Gary Sasse: Rhode Island’s Students Need an Education Bill of Rights
- Rickman’s Big View - Our Education System
- Rickman’s Big View - Education
- Is Raimondo Delaying Education Test Results Until After Election?