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RIDE supports several blogs throughout our website where Rhode Islanders and RIDE staff share their thoughts.

On this page, we have collected all of the blogs on our site - many of which share posts from Rhode Island educators other than RIDE staff. Blogs are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Commissioner's Corner: Commissioner Wagner's blog posts and messages to the Rhode Island community.
  • District Teacher of the Year (DTOY): Posts from the Rhode Island District Teachers of the Year, past and present, who share about instructional successes and challenges they encounter in Rhode Island classrooms.
  • Equitable Access to Excellent Educators: Rhode Island educators and RIDE staff explore factors and perspectives on the importance of ensuring that all students are taught by high quality educators.
  • Leadership: Reflections and insights from RIDE’s Leadership Fellow and other district and school leaders on the challenges and opportunities of being a school leader.
  • Rhode Island Poet Laureate: Reflections and poetry focused on teaching, learning, and the experience of education from Tina Cane, Rhode Island Poet Laureate.
  • Rhode Island Science Education (R.I.S.E.): A communication blog to update stakeholders in education and in the community on important developments, events and accomplishments in science education in Rhode Island.
  • Student Voice: Because student voice is an essential component of our discussion on education, RIDE will post essays written by students from around Rhode Island.

Click on a category below to filter by a particular blog:

A Conversation about R.I. Education

Posted by: Kamlyn Keith on 1/8/2016

I recently spoke with the Council of Elementary and Secondary Education about a conversation we’ve had over the past few months with Rhode Island students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, school-committee members, community leaders, and elected officials. The details have evolved based on feedback, but the focus has been consistent: Can we bring trust and joy back into our schools while dramatically improving teaching and learning for all students? I believe we can.

Teaching is the engine that powers great schools. Great instruction happens when we provide teachers with time to collaborate, develop curriculum and lessons, review student work, observe one another, and reflect on their practice. We must recruit, support, and retain a diverse staff of teachers and principals into our professional community.

But what if we did even more? What if we also re-imagined how we do schooling? What if we truly empowered the teachers, students, families, and principals who lead a school community? And what if we made these activities voluntary at the school level? Innovation and coercion do not go hand in hand.

Although it is our mission to prepare students for the 21st century, the way we do schooling was largely designed in the 19th century. The way most schools divide up time, knowledge, and learning just doesn’t make sense for many students – or for their teachers. Why not change that? Why not re-imagine schooling through hands-on, integrated, project- and problem-based approaches?

We know that far too many of our students do not have access to or are not prepared for advanced learning experiences in high school. There is some good work under way, such as Governor Raimondo’s Prepare Rhode Island and P-TECH initiatives – and we need to continue expanding opportunities. Persisting in challenging coursework is one of the best ways for our students to develop the social and emotional skills – the so-called “essential skills” – they will need for success in life. Let’s prepare our children for their futures, starting with early childhood fluency with words and numbers through a deep and engaging high-school course of study.

We need grade-level standards to ensure equity of access to the teaching and learning that prepares students for success in life, but these standards need not stifle innovation. We need tests that measure student progress so we know where our students stand, but these tests need not produce worry and fear. Assessment serves instruction – not the other way around – and the primary purpose of a test should be to provide the feedback that prompts a culture of constant growth.

Teachers, students, families, and principals would need additional autonomy and support to implement this kind of vision. What can we do to dramatically empower our school communities?

What if principals and their teacher leadership teams had the autonomy and authority to design and implement a school’s instructional program, including authority over budget and hiring decisions and freedom from the state and local rules and regulations that seem to constrict rather than enhance education? We would need shared leadership among a school’s principal and teachers, with the support of superintendents and school committees, anchored in partnerships with students and their families.

If we are serious about innovation and empowerment, why couldn’t we allow students to enroll in another district if the district had the space and wanted to welcome more students? One size doesn’t fit all. If we could provide opportunities for true autonomy, all schools would have the power to create learning environments that are so compelling no one would want to leave, even if they could.

These ideas are not new. For the past 20 years, Massachusetts has taken a similar approach, focusing on high standards and school empowerment. These are long-standing features present in all high-achieving organizations, not just in education. These are the ideas that could make our state and our economy strong.

Let’s create that culture of school leadership, feedback, innovation, and continuous improvement. If we give them the opportunity, I believe our teachers and students will achieve even more than we thought possible.

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