Cranston leaders need to be honest with themselves about where we are currently as a community and where we ought to be if we are to build and preserve a great quality of life for Cranston families in the coming decades. As I wrote in a letter to …
Cranston leaders need to be honest with themselves about where we are currently as a community and where we ought to be if we are to build and preserve a great quality of life for Cranston families in the coming decades. As I wrote in a letter to Superintendent Nero last November, we can be proud of our past but we must be focused on our future.
I believe that if we set high expectations for our public education system, Cranston will rise to the occasion. The only way to start is with an honest and candid assessment of where we stand today.
In a March article in the Cranston Herald (“Mayoral Academy Full Steam Ahead,” March 17, 2011), Superintendent Nero described 16 of Cranston’s 17 elementary schools as “high-performing.” But as we all know, our ability to “clear the bar” depends on how high or low the bar was set in the first place.
As you may recall, in February of this year, Commissioner Deborah Gist spoke to many parents at a community forum. She pointed out that while Cranston is matching or exceeding the state averages, we should not be content with “average,” especially when the student achievement in surrounding states is much higher.
The truth is that while all of Cranston’s 17 elementary schools made “Adequate Yearly Progress” according to the Rhode Island Department of Education, none of them were named a Regents Commended School. Only two of them showed improvements of more than 5 percent in math and reading on this year’s state NECAP assessment tests. Six of 17 showed decreased proficiency in both subjects.
One elementary school dropped 14 points in both reading and math, making it one of only two elementary schools in the state (the other being Robertson Elementary School in Central Falls) with major proficiency decreases in both subjects.
At 11 of our 17 elementary schools, more than a third of the students are not proficient in math. At nine elementary schools, 50 percent or more students are not proficient in science.
Our middle schools showed no significant gains in either reading or math. One even saw a seven-point drop in math proficiency to 61 percent.
One of our high schools, though its percentage of disadvantaged students is identical to the statewide high school population, trails the state proficiency average in all subjects. Zero percent of its students show distinction on state tests in either writing or science.
At its current rate of improvement, that high school will reach 100 percent student proficiency in math in 2051.
While our other high school outperforms state averages, it dramatically under performs when compared with similar student populations at schools such as South Kingstown and Portsmouth High Schools, whose percentage of proficient math students are 23 percent and 25 percent higher respectively.
We can and we must do better.
As families in Cranston know, their sons and daughters will not be competing for quality jobs with “the Rhode Island state average.” They will be competing with students from Massachusetts, where an astounding 70 high schools have math proficiency levels above 90 percent, while 127 high schools score above 90 percent proficiency in reading.
Increasingly, they will also be competing with students from the more than 25 nations that now outperform the United States on high school math and science exams.
This is serious business. It matters to Cranston families and taxpayers. It matters to me. The ability of all Cranston children to succeed in the global economy will play a major role in the health of our community.
Over the next several years, Cranston families will have an opportunity to embrace several statewide reforms, including welcoming Mayoral Academies, an innovative type of public charter schools, to Cranston. I’ve asked Achievement First, a world-class non-profit organization that runs 19 public schools, including some of the finest public schools in neighboring Connecticut, to partner with me to increase the number of excellent public school options in our city.
Achievement First Mayoral Academies will be an excellent public school option for many Cranston students. But they will also have a very positive impact on the overall conversation in Cranston about how to prepare all Cranston students for college and/or high-wage 21st century careers. As your mayor and the future chairman of the board of these new, innovative public schools, I will make sure of that.