The bill (2016-S 2554), signed yesterday by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, directs the Board of Education and Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt a state goal of closing the achievement gaps in third-grade reading and third-grade math for all groups and subgroups of student population by 50 percent by the 2019/2020 school year, and a goal of closing them completely by the 2024/2025 school year.
It is aimed at ensuring that all Rhode Island schoolchildren have the support they need to achieve success, regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, native language or any other factor.
All kids deserve a good education. Period. If we know kids in any particular group are not hitting the same levels of achievement as others, we have a duty to address that problem. If we dont, were limiting economic and job growth while silently accepting the condemnation of future generations to inequality throughout their lives. To ignore this problem is to institutionalize the continuation of unequal opportunities for certain populations throughout life, proliferating income gaps, poverty, and the many related results that come from having few opportunities, such as crime, blighted neighborhoods and even poor health. All our children deserve equal opportunities, and we must make it our mission to ensure they have them. With high expectations for all, support, and educational reforms, we can ensure success for students, said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
Rhode Island Kids Count, which supported the legislation, has pointed to startling achievement gaps by income, race and ethnicity, disability, and English language learner (ELL) status in both English language arts and mathematics among third graders in Rhode Island. For example, on the 2015 Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), 21 percent of low-income third graders met expectations in English language arts, compared to 53 percent of higher-income third graders. While 52 percent of Asian and 46 percent of white third graders met expectations in math, those numbers were 13 percent for Native Americans, 18 percent for Hispanics and 21 percent for black third graders.
The new law requires the Board of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, to develop a plan and set state goals to close all achievement and opportunity gaps across the public education system. It also requires the Board of Education to direct the Council on Postsecondary Education, in conjunction with the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, to develop strategies to increase the recruitment of minority teacher preparation students in an effort to increase diversity in the teaching profession.
The legislation was cosponsored by Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick).