One year ago, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and killed 20 children and six adults. Afterwards, schools in Rhode Island and around the country were on high alert, and many called for a conversation about how to make students safer.
So, what happened?
In Rhode Island, lawmakers passed a bill requiring school districts to work with local law enforcement on safety reviews and report their emergency plans to the State Department of Education.
A new study by the Institute for College Access and Success shows Rhode Island students carry the fifth highest debt burdens in the country. The study looked at student loans for the class of 2012. The average in Rhode Island was $31,156.
Several other New England state also ranked high on the list, including Maine and New Hampshire, which ranked second. The average student loan rate in New Hampshire was $32,698.
Rhode Island’s Board of Education votes Monday on a plan to split the board in to two separate councils. One council would focus on K-12 education, while the other would focus on higher education.
The plan comes after the state merged its separate boards of education, citing the need for better coordination of public schools and universities. Supporters said they were tired of hearing business and higher education leaders complain that graduates of Rhode Island high schools were unprepared for life after high school.
New international testing results show American high school students are only about average when compared to their peers in the developed world. The test, known as the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA, has long been a source of hand-wringing about American competitiveness and calls for more urgent reforms in public schools.
Our panel this week discusses RI's persistently high unemployment; Senator Dawson Hodgson's renewed call for an outside investigation into 38 Studios; Angel Taveras' proposal for instituting universal pre-K in Rhode Island; and Scott MacKay and Maureen Moakley's top turkeys of 2013.
A survey of Rhode Island students has turned up some interesting findings.
The survey of 635 students was conducted last spring by Young Voices, a student advocacy group. They asked their peers what could be done to improve graduation and attendance rates. Young Voices executive director Karen Feldman said two issues came up repeatedly: discipline and hands on learning opportunities.
Rhode Island Kids Count is out with an issue brief on the high school graduation rate in Rhode Island. The latest statistics show that while the four-year graduation rate is increasing, a gap remains between affluent students and their lower-income colleagues.
New standards for teacher programs will link quality measures to factors that include student test scores. The standards also raise the bar for admissions to teacher programs, calling for undergraduate applicants to have at least a 2.75 grade point average.
The new standards are part of an ongoing effort to improve teaching in Rhode Island's public schools. I asked Nancy Castagno from Rhode Island College to weigh in on the standards, and she said RIC and URI have both been working closely with state officials to craft the language of the standards.