Education

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Analysis by Rhode Island Public Radio finds urban and middle class students in Rhode Island have lower test scores than their peers in Massachusetts; and the state’s ambitious goal to improve 3rd grade reading skills in less than a decade. We discuss the top issues in public education on a special education edition of our weekly political roundtable. 

Achievement First in Providence wants to add a third K-8 school and move forward with its plan to open a high school, and the Segue Middle School in Central Falls wants to add an elementary school. Those are just two of the charter school proposals on tap at the Rhode Island Department of Education. 

Elisabeth Harrison

After just two years of PARCC, there is little longitudinal data to help us understand how students and their schools are doing. But one of the promises of PARCC was that it would allow state-by-state comparisons of achievement, so let’s see what we can learn by comparing scores from Rhode Island with our high-achieving neighbor to the north: Massachusetts.

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State officials say a new initiative to increase the use of digital textbooks will cut costs for many students and make higher education more accessible for everyone, including English language learners.

The open-license, digital textbooks are generally free and can be downloaded on a student’s computer. They can also be updated or changed the professor giving the course.

Sixty Rhode Island teachers are heading back to college to learn how to teach English as a second language. The program, a collaboration between urban school districts, the state and the Rhode Island Foundation, will cover the cost of tuition so that more teachers can gain certifications to teach English Language Learners or teach in bi-lingual programs known as dual language classrooms.

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Fewer than one in three Rhode Island students is proficient in science, according to results from the most recent round of state science testing. Scores for 8th graders have shown no gains since the state began administering the test in 2008.

Some 30,000 students in grades 4, 8 and 11 took the test, known as the NECAP Science Test, in May. Roughly 29 percent scored proficient or better, a slight decrease from last year.

Average scores were better for elementary students than for middle or high school students, but no districts reported significant gains this year.

Listenwise helps teachers use stories from their local public radio station with students in their classrooms. Working with RIPR we identify relevant local news stories, design and develop classroom resources around them and make them available for free on the Education Blog. If you want to find more public radio stories and lessons for your middle and high school ELA, social studies, and science classrooms you can sign up for a free account! 

Elisabeth Harrison

Participation in SAT testing rose 1 percent for the class of 2016, with a record 6,303 students taking the test required for admission at many colleges. But average scores dropped by two points in reading and three points in Math, according to state education officials.

While the drop in scores was consistent with a nationwide trend, Rhode Island scores were below the national average. Local students scored 16 points below average in Math and nine points below average in reading. Writing scores were seven points lower than the national average.

Ready to Learn Providence, an education nonprofit, is working to regain funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The nonprofit has already laid off five employees and expects another round of layoffs next week.

Federal education officials put a hold on $1.5 million of the nonprofit's funding following allegations of embezzlement at Ready To Learn's parent organization, The Providence Plan.

Ready to Learn runs early childhood education programs in the Providence Public School system. 

Happy Weekend, and thanks for stopping by. As usual, your tips and comments are welcome, and you can follow me through the week on the twitters. Here we go.

Katherine Doherty

Gov. Gina Raimondo sat down with high school students Tuesday at Providence's Central High Schoolto hear about their experiences taking college courses through a state program known as PrepareRI.

The program, which covers the cost of college courses for public school students, has been touted by Raimondo and others as a way to encourage more students to attend college. It's also seen as a way to give students a discount on the cost of college by allowing them to arrive on campus with credits already under their belts.

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By 2025, 75 percent of Rhode Island's third graders will be "proficient or better" in reading, according to the goal announced Wednesday by Gov. Gina Raimondo. In setting the target, Raimondo cited evidence that suggests third grade reading is a strong indicator of future success in school.

"Today, I'm drawing a line in the sand and setting a clear goal for Rhode Island: By 2025, when the kids who were born this year reach third grade, three out of four will be reading at grade level," Raimondo said in a prepared statement.

Labor Day has come and gone, schools are back in session, and once again teachers are on the hunt for classroom supplies. Many of them will head straight to Resources for Rhode Island Education, a non-profit organization that, for 25 years, has been recycling manufacturers’ excess material, and making it available to schools and community organizations.

In many ways, this story really starts with the fact that there are always people with stuff they want to get rid of, like Mack the Finger, from Bob Dylan’s classic song "Highway 61."

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Voters head to the polls Tuesday for primary elections in Rhode Island, and one of those primaries will fill a House seat formerly held by Ray Gallison. The Democrat resigned under a law enforcement probe likely to include legislative grants, given to an organization with Gallison on the payroll. Rhode Island Public Radio Political Analyst Scott MacKay discussed the race with News Director Elisabeth Harrison.

Katherine Doherty

After the long summer break, it's back to school this week for many Rhode Island students.

In Coventry and Barrington, classes start Monday. Lincoln and Burrillville are among the districts resuming school on Tuesday. 

Warwick reopens elementary schools and 9th grade on Wednesday. In Cranston, students head back to class on Thursday.

Little Compton, Portsmouth and some charter schools are already back in session as of last week. Providence and Newport won’t resume classes until after Labor Day.

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