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Young Voices members meet with Governor Chafee to present broad vision for improving RI public education

 

 

Our youth decided it was time to take a leadership role, in partnership with our state's most powerful education leaders, to design education policies that ensure success for every student.   

 

Meeting with Governor 

 

They conducted a thorough analysis of the state's education system, and came up with a comprehensive Policy Plan that will transform student outcomes (see plan below).  Their vision does not lay blame on any one group, but instead looks at the whole education system, suggesting ways to improve the performance of districts, principals, teachers, and students. 

 

They met with Governor Chafee on May 12th, 2011 to present their plan, and will be following up with his policy team.  They are also in the process of meeting with all the new members of the State Board of Regents. 

 

Youth Working with Governor
 

A Vision for Education Reform for the State of RI

A Policy Plan created and led by Students

 

We feel that it is time that young people themselves take the lead in creating a vision for schools that will meet the needs of students and ensure their success.  We have a special role to play in the conversation our state's leaders are having about education-for not only have we studied education policies in depth, not only are we skilled advocates and organizers, we are the ones who experience these policies on a day-to-day basis.  We are the ones who truly know what these policies look like in reality, and it is our future that is at stake. 

 

First, we have studied the idea for an education system put forth by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, a "smart education system that links a high-functioning school district with a web of supports for children and families."  Simply put, the problem is not individual students, or teachers, or parents---it's the system we are all involved in.  We are not interested in taking sides or blaming people.  We are interested in only one thing-doing what it takes to make sure the education system works for every student.

 

Specifically, we call for the following policies to be put in place:

  • Our education system must be fully funded. The new funding formula, which we worked so hard to get, must be honored every year.
  • We need to support our leaders to succeed, especially our urban superintendents.  When there is turnover every two years, it is very hard on teachers who constantly have to adapt to initiatives that are never in place long enough to have an effect.
  • We need to find ways to support our districts to function more effectively, so teachers get the support they need to do their best work.   District staff should be evaluated to ensure they are effective.
  • We need to evaluate all our principals and hold them to high standards.  
  • All teachers should be evaluated by trained professionals in a way that helps them to improve their teaching.  High school students should have input in teacher evaluation, through a valid measure.  While this input wouldn't have an impact on teachers' job status, it could be a valuable tool for them to improve their practice.
  • We need teacher re-certification to be based on effectiveness, not just coursework.
  • Policies need to focus on getting the system to work for all students, not holding individual students responsible for system failure.  We call for the high school graduation requirements that were recently passed to be re-written to focus on improving the system, with the input of students themselves.  We oppose the idea of an exit exam that holds students accountable for material not being taught.   
  • We need to be proactive.  Early childhood education must be expanded.  Also, we should re-design elementary schools in which more than 40% of students are not proficient.  Thanks to federal regulations, RI has the power to use a variety of "turn around" models to restructure schools with persistently low scores. 
  • We need to support our families to be strong, so they can support their kids to succeed.  Child Care subsidies should be increased, and families should not lose their child care just because they get a small raise.

Second, we also strongly believe that schools must be student-centered.  This means that everything---contracts, laws, teacher placement, curriculum, even the school day itself---should be designed around the best learning for students.  Students need to be taught in ways that engage them, include their interests, and prepare them for the 21st Century. 

Specifically, we call for the following policies to be put in place:

  • Teacher contracts need to allow for more flexibility in the school day.
  • Teachers should be placed based on the needs of the students, and reliable criteria should be used for placement.
  • The curriculum should be taught in a way that is relevant to students' lives and future careers, and use a variety of techniques including traditional lecture.
  • Teachers should be supported to work in teams and have common planning time.
  • Students should get school credit for relevant learning, even if it happens outside the school day.