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A RI-CAN RESEARCH REPORT


THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND PUBLIC EDUCATION A 2011–2012 REPORT CARD FOR OUR STATE’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC POLICIES

PREFACE BY MARYELLEN BUTKE, PH.D.

This report was published in January 2012 by RI-CAN: The Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now. To order copies of this report, please contact RI-CAN at info@ri-can.org RI-CAN: The Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now www. ri-can.org Design & Layout house9design.ca


Table of Contents

Preface

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Executive Summary

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1

The Big Picture: Rhode Island Student Achievement Rhode Island vs. the World

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Rhode Island’s Achievement Gap The Black-White Gap The Hispanic-White Gap The Income Gap

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Great Schools = Great Jobs

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The State of Rhode Island Education Policy Race to the Top Progress Charter Schools Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

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Conclusion

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Preface MARYELLEN BUTKE, PH.D., RI-CAN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Last year we started a new conversation about Rhode Island public schools, a conversation that begins with the fundamental belief that all Rhode Island children can achieve at high levels when they are taught by a great teacher in a great school. One year into this effort, I am more convinced than ever that Rhode Island needs a true movement of education reformers: moms, dads, neighbors, teachers, principals, school officials, aunts, uncles, students, business owners, civic leaders, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, anyone who understands that great schools change everything and that we’re failing as a state to live up to our promise of providing great schools for every child. A critical part of our work is to take a sober look at where we stand in the effort to make sure every Rhode Island kid has access to a great public school. So, last year we committed to publishing an annual State of Rhode Island Public Education report. This is our second report. Many of the same trends from last year continue. We still have unacceptably large racial and economic divides in achievement in our state. We are welding closed the escape hatch for poor kids and children of color. And even our wealthier, more advantaged kids just aren’t stacking up against our peers in Massachusetts and across the globe in South Korea and Singapore. At the same time, the results of the 2011 National Assessment for Educational Progress reveal that student achievement in the Ocean State is up since 2009, suggesting that the initial reform efforts put in place by Education Commissioner Deborah Gist and other education leaders are starting to get results for Rhode Island kids. Working together we can build a movement, grounded in the facts, that gets results for Rhode Island’s children.

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Executive Summary RI-CAN’s mission is simple: to ensure that every Rhode Island child, regardless of race, ethnicity or class, can go to a great public school. While Rhode Island has made some progress toward making this vision a reality, The State of Rhode Island Public Education shows why our work to help fix Rhode Island’s schools is more critical than ever. This report holds up a magnifying glass to K–12 public school performance in Rhode Island by examining how our students are doing on both state and national assessments, how prepared they are for college, and how they stack up against each other, the rest of the country and the world. It also discusses where we stand on implementing our grantwinning Race to the Top plans and the path ahead of us. Some highlights include: s We are making some progress. Rhode Island was one of a few states in the country to improve in both fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics since 2009. s But we’ve got a long way to go. Only 33 percent of 11th-grade Rhode Island students are at least proficient in math on the 2010–2011 state test. s Rhode Island’s enormous achievement gaps persist. On the Nation’s Report Card, only 18 percent of our eighth-grade low-income students are at least proficient in reading and only 16 percent are at least proficient in math. English Language Learners are nearly an astonishing six grade levels behind their native English-speaking peers in eighth-grade math. s Our kids are not prepared for tomorrow’s jobs. By 2016, a mere four years from now, 74 percent of Rhode Island jobs will require at least a two-year degree and many will require a bachelor’s degree.1 But just 74 percent of Rhode Island’s students graduate from high school2 and only 43 percent of Rhode Island adults have a two-year associate’s degree or higher.3

1 http://www.nationalskillscoalition .org/assets/reports-/skills2compete _forgottenjobs_ri_2009-10.pdf 2 http://achieve.org/files/Rhode Island-CCRFactSheet-July2011.pdf 3 http://achieve.org/files/Rhode

s Our new teacher evaluation system is an example of what progress looks like. By the 2013–2014 school year, a major portion of the evaluation will be based on student learning and growth, along with professional practice and responsibilities. s We are not living up to the promise of school choice. Rhode Island is ranked 37 out of 50 states for its public charter school laws.4 Rhode Island is in serious need of improvement in providing additional authorizer options for new charter schools and accountability measures for existing charter schools.

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4 http://charterlaws.publiccharters. org/charterlaws/state/RI

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1

The Big Picture: Rhode Island Student Achievement The latest results on Rhode Island students’ standardized tests tell us a story: recent school reforms are working, and we’ve got a lot more work to do. Since 2005, Rhode Island reading and math scores have steadily improved in every grade on our annual state assessment, the New England Common Assessment Program. Fifty-nine percent of all students tested posted scores that put them at the proficient level or higher in reading in 2005. By 2010, the year of the most recently available data, that proportion increased to 70 percent. In high school, we went from 62 percent of 11th-grade students scoring at or above proficient in 2007 to 76 percent in 2010. These are dramatic gains. Rhode Island students have also steadily improved in math proficiency over time, although the increase has not been as significant as the reading improvements. In 2010, 59 percent of all students tested scored at least proficient in math, an increase from 50 percent of third- through eighth-graders in 2005. In Rhode Island high schools in 2007, only 22 percent of all 11th-graders scored proficient in math. By 2010, 33 percent hit that mark. This progress is real, but it also highlights just how much more room for improvement we have. Only 33 percent of 11th-grade Rhode Island students scored on or above grade level in math on our state test in 2010. Only 60 percent of fifth- and eighth-graders and 51 percent of 11th-grade students scored at least proficient in writing. That percentage means that at the peak of their high school careers, when juniors are taking college entrance exams and preparing to apply to universities, only 49 percent of students are writing on grade level. The 2011 results on the national assessment known as the Nation’s Report Card show that Rhode Island was one of a few states to improve in both fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics since 2009. And in eighthgrade reading and eighth-grade math, the average for all students is the highest it has been since 2003. But the numbers are not so rosy over the long term for reading. Eighth-grade proficiency or above in math has increased since 2009 and has increased significantly since 1990, but our reading scores have remained nearly stagnant since 1998 for both our fourth- and eighth-graders. Only 36 percent of our fourth-grade students are at least proficient in reading compared to 32 percent in 1998. And 34 percent of our eighthgraders are at least proficient in reading, only a two-point difference from the 1998 result of 32 percent.

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SOURCE http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/pdf/ stt2011/2012454RI8.pdf

PERCENT PROFICIENT

FIGURE 1 Rhode Island was one of the few states in the country to improve in both fourthand eighth-grade mathematics since 2009

YEAR

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Our numbers also fall far short of our neighbors. Rhode Island eighthgraders ranked 29th in math, but our New England neighbors to the north, Massachusetts and Vermont, rank first and fourth, respectively. The need for progress in our schools is clear when we look at how Rhode Island students fare on Advanced Placement tests. A low percentage of our high school graduates achieve a “successful” AP experience, meaning that they complete an AP course and score a three or better on the exam. Only 10.9 percent of Rhode Island graduates scored a three or better on at least one AP exam, which is significantly lower than the national rate of 16.9 percent and less than half the rate in neighboring Massachusetts, which was 23.1 percent. Since 2001, Rhode Island’s percentage of successful AP experiences increased by 4.7 percentage points from 6.2 percent to 10.9 percent, but other states are improving more rapidly.5

5 http://apreport.collegeboard.org/ sites/default/files/downloads/pdfs/ AP_RTN_2011.pdf

Rhode Island vs. the World Rhode Island isn’t just lagging behind within New England and the United States. We are even less competitive when stacked up directly against other industrialized countries. The report U.S. Math Performance in a Global Perspective, completed by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, looks at scores on the 2005 Nation’s Report Card. The report then compares each state’s scores with the scores of other countries on the Program for International Student Assessment.6 The basic finding is that no state in the country is competitive with any of the world’s leading industrial nations. The highest-ranked state is Massachusetts, which ranks 15th in this world comparison, followed by Minnesota, which ranks 17th. Even among advanced students in Rhode Island who have at least one collegeeducated parent, we are still behind most states in the U.S. and are far behind other countries. Rhode Island’s high achievers are ranked 39th among U.S. states along with Tennessee’s students and are tied with Croatia and Turkey.7

6 PISA is an international test that compares math, reading, and science scores with member countries of the OECD. Comparisons are made between 50 countries including the top industrialized nations.

7 http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/ PDF/Papers/PEPG10-19_Hanushek PetersonWoessmann.pdf

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Rhode Island’s Achievement Gap If we examine which students are achieving at higher levels, a picture of an enduring achievement gap emerges in Rhode Island. In 2010, 79

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percent of white students tested reached the at least proficient standard in reading on the state assessment, while only 54 percent of black students and 52 percent of Hispanic students did. Only 56 percent of students who are considered economically disadvantaged scored a proficient on the New England reading exam, when 83 percent of their wealthier peers did. The state’s math test results reveal a staggering gap too. Only 33 percent of black students and 35 percent of Hispanic students met the proficiency benchmark, but 64 percent of white students scored at least a proficient in math. Even more startling, when these numbers are sorted by grade, it is clear that the achievement gap has actually widened. For example, in high school, the achievement gap in reading increased five percentage points for whites and Hispanics and seven for blacks and whites. So, even though the achievement gap has steadily narrowed overall since 2009, it has widened in higher grade levels. The 2011 Nation’s Report Card also reflects Rhode Island’s persistent achievement gap, cementing educational inequality and affecting thousands of students’ prospects for the future. Rhode Island has the largest disparity in the country between the academic performance of students who are native English speakers and their peers who are learning English as an additional language. English Language Learners are nearly an astonishing six grade levels behind their native English-speaking peers in eighth-grade math. The Black-White Gap There is an enduring achievement gap between Rhode Island black students and their white peers that has not significantly changed in the last two decades. Only 17 percent of our black eighth-graders are proficient in reading, meaning that 83 percent are reading below the level appropriate for their grade. By way of contrast, 41 percent of white students scored a proficient in reading. Even more alarming, the achievement gap between black students and their white peers in eighth-grade reading has actually widened slightly from 1998. This trend means that in the last two decades, almost no progress has been made to decrease the disturbing achievement disparities that continue to exist between white and black students. In eighth-grade math, the achievement gap similarly has only decreased by two percentage points since 1990. The Hispanic-White Gap The data also illustrate significant and persistent gaps between Rhode Island Hispanic students and their white classmates. Hispanic fourthgraders in Rhode Island perform worse than Hispanic students in 28

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FIGURE 2 English Language Learners are nearly six grade levels behind their native English-speaking peers in eighth-grade math

SOURCE http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/pdf/ stt2011/2012454RI8.pdf

Note: The grade level difference refers to raw “scale” score differences on the Nation’s Report Card. Ten scale points is equivalent to one grade level.

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FIGURE 3 Hispanic-White Achievement Gap, 8th Grade Math

SOURCE http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/pdf/

ACHIEVEMENT GAP

stt2011/2012454RI8.pdf

STATE

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FIGURE 4 Hispanic-White Achievement Gap, 8th Grade Reading

SOURCE http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/pdf/

ACHIEVEMENT GAP

stt2011/2012454RI8.pdf

STATE

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other states in reading. Only 16 percent of fourth-grade Hispanic students in Rhode Island are reading at the appropriate level for their grade. By eighth grade, reading proficiency decreases to 14 percent among Hispanic students. In turn, 86 percent of Hispanic students enter Rhode Island high schools unprepared to read on grade level. The achievement gap between Hispanic students and their white classmates in mathematics is also disturbingly wide. In fourth-grade math, Rhode Island’s achievement gap between white students and their Hispanic peers is worse than 43 other states out of 47 states examined. Hispanic students are more than two grade levels behind their white peers.8 Similarly, in eighth-grade math, the achievement gap in Rhode Island is worse than 39 states out of 46 examined. Hispanic students drop to three grade levels behind white students by eighth grade.9

8 Ten points on the NAEP are the rough equivalent of one grade level’s proficiency in reading and math. A 30-point gap is therefore approximately a three-grade level difference. Scale Score difference: 249.3-224.2

The Income Gap

9 Scale Score difference: 291.7-261.3

There are also significant disparities in achievement between poor students and their wealthier peers. Rhode Island’s low-income eighthgraders are more than two grade levels behind their more advantaged classmates in reading10 and nearly three grade levels in math.11 Only 18 percent of eighth-grade low-income students in Rhode Island are proficient in reading and only 16 percent of low-income students reached the proficiency benchmark in math.

10 Scale Score difference: 275-251.1 11 Scale Score difference: 294.7266.6

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Great Schools = Great Jobs The economic recession that is still plaguing the United States has taken a serious toll on Rhode Island. Currently, Rhode Island has the seventhhighest unemployment rate in the country at 10.4 percent,12 above the national rate of 9.0 percent.13 Even more alarming, according to the Economic Policy Institute, Providence and Hartford have the highest Hispanic unemployment rates in the country among metropolitan cities at a staggering 25.2 percent and 23.5 percent.14 With an aging workforce and a changing, post-industrial economic landscape, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island is at risk of climbing even higher. Fixing Rhode Island’s ailing economy and ensuring that our students receive the best education possible is essential for Rhode Island’s future. Simply put, due to the changing nature of the economy as a whole, a high school degree is no longer enough to get and keep a good job. According to the National Skills Coalition, 74 percent of

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12 http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/ laumstrk.htm ; Unemployment statistics are from October 2011. 13 http://www.bls.gov/bls/ unemployment.htm

14 http://www.epi.org/publication/ hispanic-unemployment-northeast/

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SOURCE http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/pdf/ stt2011/2012454RI8.pdf

PERCENT PROFICIENT

FIGURE 5 Only 18 percent of our low-income students in eighth grade are proficient in reading and only 16 percent are proficient in math

DEMOGRAPHIC

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FIGURE 6 If Only 43% of Rhode Island’s Population Continue to Pursue Post-High School Degrees, Nearly Two out of Five Middle-Skill Job Positions will be Left Vacant by 2016

SOURCE http://www. nationalskillscoalition.org/assets/ reports-/skills2compete _forgottenjobs_ri_2009-10.pdf; http://www.higheredinfo.org/ dbrowser/index.php?measure =72; http://www.achieve.org/files/ RhodeIsland-CCRFactSheet -July2011.pdf

Middle-Skill Workers

Middle-Skill Job Opportunitites

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Rhode Island’s jobs in 2016 will be middle or high-level jobs, meaning that they require at least a two-year degree and many require a bachelor’s degree.15 However, only 74 percent of Rhode Island’s students graduate from high school and a mere 43 percent go on to receive a two-year associate’s degree or higher.16 In order for Rhode Island to continue to compete nationally and internationally, we need to secure dramatic improvements.

15 http://www.nationalskillscoalition .org/assets/reports-/skills2compete _forgottenjobs_ri_2009-10.pdf 16 http://achieve.org/files/Rhode Island-CCRFactSheet-July2011.pdf

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The State of Rhode Island Education Policy According to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2011 report,17 Rhode Island ranks 31st nationally and received an overall grade of C for the quality of our schools. Our poor grades came from several key policy areas in need of improvement, including a C+ for standards, assessments and accountability. Under the assessments category, we were given low marks for not vertically equating scores on state assessments in order to easily compare scores. Further, we received a low accountability score because our state currently does not provide rewards for high-performing schools and does not assign ratings to schools using other data besides the Adequate Yearly Progress measures laid out in the federal No Child Left Behind law. We also received low marks for our teacher hiring practices, primarily because current Rhode Island policy does not require teachers to take subject-specific knowledge exams and due to the state’s lack of programs to incentivize teachers such as a “pay for performance” program. Our state must also do better at providing mentorship and induction programs for new teachers in order to increase teacher retention and ensure that all new teachers are properly counseled as they progress in their careers.

17 http://www.edweek.org/media/ ew/qc/2011/QualityCounts2011 _PressRelease.pdf

Race to the Top Progress Here’s the good news: Rhode Island is making great strides in reforming our public schools and addressing these policy gaps. Winning coveted Race to the Top funds was a significant victory for Rhode Island public schools. One year after winning a Race to the Top grant, Rhode Island has made significant progress in enacting several reforms. This summer, a strong teacher and principal evaluation system was put into practice and will begin to hold educators accountable for high student achieve-

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ment and progress. By the 2013–2014 school year, a significant percent of a teacher’s job evaluation will be drawn from student achievement growth. The program will not be fully operational until the 2013–2014 school year, but it will begin to take shape this year, with the first round of evaluations in the spring.18 In fact, the National Council on Teacher Quality highlighted Rhode Island for reforming our teacher evaluation systems to reflect our Race to the Top promises.19 We also implemented reforms to allow for alternative certification for teachers to help recruit effective teachers and leaders through non-traditional paths. In 2011, Rhode Island adopted new teacher certification regulations that create a multi-tiered system establishing pathways for teachers to advance their careers. The new regulations will also allow the Rhode Island Department of Education to establish a renewal process based on proven teacher effectiveness. Additionally, as part of Race to the Top, Rhode Island is working with the New Teacher Center, a nationally recognized organization that provides supports throughout all 50 states in teacher induction. This program creates an instructionally-focused and data-driven induction program for teachers across Rhode Island, as well as a second year of coaching for teachers in Rhode Island’s urban core districts.20

18 http://www.ride.ri.gov/commiss ioner/RaceToTheTop/docs/Combined _Narrative_FINAL_5.27.pdf 19 http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/ docs/nctq_stateOfTheStates.pdf

20 Educator Quality Induction Program, available at http://www .ride.ri.gov/EducatorQuality/ mentoring.aspx

Charter Schools There remain significant barriers to delivering on the promises in our Race to the Top application when it comes to charter schools. Rhode Island made a commitment to expand charter schools operating within the state and to hold existing charter schools accountable for student achievement. The Rhode Island Department of Education and other state leaders pledged to use Race to the Top funds to bring “the highestperforming charter operations from across the country” to Rhode Island in order to secure 40 points on the application. These plans took a significant hit in September when the Board of Regents voted down the application by Rhode Island Mayoral Academies to bring the Achievement First charter school network to Rhode Island. Achievement First is one of the most successful public charter school operators in the nation, with consistently high levels of student achievement across their 20 public schools in Connecticut and New York. Denying entrance to our state was a significant step back in Rhode Island’s commitment to providing an excellent education for all. The application to bring Achievement First to Rhode Island was the second charter school application by RIMA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a network of new, high-performing charter schools with leadership from the state’s mayors. RIMA was designed to

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fulfill the promise of the 2008 breakthrough mayoral academy legislation, which eliminated the most restrictive aspects of Rhode Island’s charter schools law, including provisions governing collective bargaining, educator hiring and compensation. Blackstone Valley Prep, operated by RIMA, is a prime example of a high-performing charter school. Established in 2009, Blackstone Valley became the first public school in Rhode Island to record a 100 percent proficiency score for elementary school children in reading on the state tests. A new application to bring Achievement First to Rhode Island has been submitted by RIMA, with a vote by the Board of Regents likely to occur in January 2012. This vote will be a significant test of the state’s commitment to its Race to the Top plan and to the expansion of highperforming schools of choice. In addition to supporting the expansion of mayoral academy charter schools, Rhode Island could do more to provide its existing public charter schools with the autonomy and independence they need to be successful. Under current statute, district and independent charter schools are still bound by union contract-created rules such as tenure, prevailing wage and participation in the pension system. Last year, the League of Charter Schools unsuccessfully attempted to pass a bill to free independent public charter schools from the pension system. In fact, Rhode Island is still ranked at an abysmal 37 out of 41 states with public charter school laws on the books. For the 2010 rankings of Rhode Island charter laws, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found that Rhode Island is in serious need of improvement in providing additional authorizer options for new charter schools and accountability measures for existing charter schools.21

21 http://charterlaws.publiccharters .org/charterlaws/state/RI

Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Rhode Island is building on the progress we have made since winning the Race to the Top by submitting an application for the newest Race to the Top competition: the Early Learning Challenge. Rhode Island just got word that we were successful in that effort and were awarded $50 million to fund important early education reforms. The application specifies five key areas of reform, including building on the state’s existing early learning and development programs and systems, defining high-quality and accountable programs, promoting early learning and development outcomes for children, supporting a great early childhood education workforce, and measuring outcomes and progress.22 Making sure that Rhode Island students are college and career-ready for a 21st century economy means investing in early childhood education. Empirical studies show a correlation between pre-K programs and

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22 http://www.earlylearningri.org/ content/race-top-early-learning -challenge-application-released

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future academic achievement and find evidence of a significant return on investment for high-quality programs.23 A recent study of Chicago’s early education programs conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that, “for every dollar invested in a Chicago early childhood education program, nearly eleven dollars is projected to return to society over the children’s lifetimes— equivalent to an 18 percent annual return on program investment.”24 The study also indicated that students in these programs were more likely to attend a four-year college program and to pursue high-level careers, and are less likely to participate in crime.25

23 W.S. Barnett, Preschool Education and its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications, National Education Policy Center, 2008, available at http://epicpolicy.org/ publication/preschool-education

24 School Based Early Childhood Education Program Yields High Economic Returns, University of Minnesota Researchers Find, University of Minnesota, February 4, 2011, available at http://www1 .umn.edu/news/news-releases/2011/ UR_CONTENT_293949.html 25 Ibid.

Conclusion The facts in this report make a few things clear: the last several years of public school policy reforms are helping our kids catch up with their peers from Massachusetts to Singapore. But one of the reasons for our steady progress is just how much room we have to improve, especially for our neediest kids. For Rhode Island to move the needle in 2012, we need every Rhode Islander’s help. RI-CAN was founded on the belief that all children can learn and the promise that we will not rest until they have the great teachers and the great schools they deserve. Together, we will create the political will to overcome the obstacles to real change. We promise to do the homework: we’ll tell you which schools are failing, which legislation needs passing, which politician is standing in the way. In exchange, we hope you will use your voice to make great schools a reality for all our kids.

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About RI-CAN Rhode Island’s achievement gap—the persistent and significant disparity between the academic achievement of low-income and minority children and their white, middle-class peers—is the most urgent social and economic problem facing our state. We have one of the country’s largest achievement gaps between rich and poor kids, and each and every one of us is paying the price for our failing public schools. But Rhode Island, and the entire nation, was built on the promise of universal education. Public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy. Our future is inextricably linked to the education of our children—all of them. RI-CAN is building a new movement of concerned citizens advocating to fundamentally reform our public schools through smart public policies. We will not rest until every Rhode Island child, regardless of race, ethnicity, or class, has access to a great public school. www.ri-can.org


State of Rhode Island Public Education 2012