After ten years of working toward this moment, this is the year our Diploma System is fully in place, and it has already resulted in better prepared students. More students today are ready to graduate and they are much more ready to succeed beyond high school. We are on the right course.
When we give students and teachers the support they need and when we hold one another accountable students, families, teachers, education leaders, myself included we get results. Look what has happened in Central Falls High School, where the four-year graduation rate has moved from 48 percent in 2009 to 74 percent in 2013. Look at Charles E. Shea Senior High School, in Pawtucket, where the four-year graduation rate has climbed from 57 percent in 2009 to 83 percent today!
But despite the progress we have made, we have much more to do to ensure that all students in Rhode Island are achieving. As we approach the fifth and final year of our Strategic Plan for Transforming Education, I would like to share with you a vision of what our schools can achieve as we continue our journey to become the home of Americas best public schools.
First, we need to be sure to welcome technology into the classroom not just as a tool or resource but as an essential element in the process of teaching and learning. In many classrooms across the state, we already see teachers and students who work in small teams and one on one, using technology to create and collaborate and to meet the individual learning needs of every student.
Second, over the past several years, we have focused intensely on the so-called STEM subjects, and quite rightly so. In fact, an international movement called STEM to STEAM began right here in Rhode Island. Its pretty simple: take STEM and add an A - as in science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics. With our world-renowned creative-arts culture, our history of innovation in manufacturing and design, and our growing maker movement, Rhode Island is the perfect home base for what has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Third, the work we do is designed to prepare our students to succeed in and contribute to our rapidly changing global community. No matter what field our graduates enter, they will prosper if they understand other cultures and other languages. If we are truly committed to preparing students for success in challenging careers, we need to expand opportunities and encourage immersion in world languages, beginning in the early grades. Imagine our students leaving elementary school fluent in two languages! Rhode Island, with our rich history of cultural diversity, can surely become the national leader in world languages.
As I know from the many letters, e-mails, and phone calls I receive every day, parents in Rhode Island are serious about success in school. Parents are very clear that they want us to:
" know their children well;
" keep them safe;
" challenge them to reach excellence;
" support them in their endeavors; and
" inspire them to reach for the stars.
Who can disagree? We know what we can accomplish when we all work together. We wont always agree, obviously, on every policy, every decision, every detail. But I truly hope and believe that we will put our differences aside and focus on the goals we share:
" pride in our schools;
" belief in our students;
" support for our teachers ;
" opportunity for our graduates; and
" a bright economic future for our state.
Can what we do in Rhode Island really affect the world? Yes. Our power is greater than we often realize. After all, our state is not really an island. We have long, deep, historic connections to many cultures across the globe.
When we see our ethnic and cultural diversity as an asset, we can attract businesses to our state. Rhode Island may be a micro-state, but we are also a microcosm. We can innovate, take risks, and lead the way as a state. Lets show the world what we can do when we come together with our hopes, our faith, and our talents to work in the best interest of our students!