Rhode Islanders Want Schools to Prepare Students for Economic Success

Survey calls for basic skills, workforce development, creating global citizens

Rhode Islanders believe that the most important purposes of public education (prekindergarten through high school) in Rhode Island are preparing every student for future economic success and ensuring that students have basic academic skills.

The next two most important purposes of public education, Rhode Islanders believe, are supporting and developing the future workforce of Rhode Island and creating global citizens.

The findings are the results of the statewide survey on public education that the Board of Education, the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, and the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) launched in October. About 10,150 Rhode Islanders responded to the survey, which closed on December 31, 2014.

“I am very pleased that we have surpassed our goal of 10,000 survey responses, and I want to thank the Rhode Islanders who helped us get out the word on this survey and who took the time to thoughtfully respond,” said Eva-Marie Mancuso, chair of the Board of Education. “I am confident that the survey results will help to ensure that our next strategic plan – our vision for the year 2020 – will be a plan of, by, and for all Rhode Islanders.”

The survey results will guide the process of developing a new strategic plan for Rhode Island public education, establishing a vision for public education over the next five years.

A team of 26 volunteers that the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education selected from 156 applicants will develop and write the strategic plan over the next six months, with the goal of presenting the plan to the Board and the Council for approval in June. Members of the design team from PPSD include Doris De Los Santos, executive director of partnership, development and community engagement; Brian Baldizar, assistant principal at Classical High School; Piedade Lemos, foreign language teacher leader at the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex; Kai Cameron, facilitator for community partnerships; and Sidi Wen, Classical High School student.

“The tremendous response to this survey shows us that Rhode Islanders care deeply about the quality of public education and that we want the best public-education system for our students and communities,” said Patrick A. Guida, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. “With the survey completed and the design team in place, we are off to a great start in developing our next strategic plan.”

Rhode Islanders who responded to the survey believe that the most important skills students should learn before graduating from high school are, in order, communications, problem-solving, basic academic skills, and creativity or innovation.

Asked what they valued most in a public school, survey respondents cited the quality of teaching and a challenging academic program, followed closely by physical safety and a caring environment.

As to recommended improvements in Rhode Island schools, survey respondents highlighted promoting student creativity and self-motivation and improving students’ basic academic skills.

The survey respondents said that the priorities that can best ensure that our schools meet the needs of our students and of the state are adequate funding and resources, training and supporting teachers, career readiness and employability, and technology and digital literacy.

More than 80 percent of respondents believe that the quality of our public schools is “of the highest importance” to the success of Rhode Island as a state. The majority of respondents have a positive impression of Rhode Island public schools (48 percent believe our schools have “more strengths than weaknesses” and 12 percent believe “they have many strengths.”)

“I want to thank Rhode Islanders from every community for responding to this survey,” said Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. “The survey is completed, but we remain committed to engaging Rhode Islanders in an ongoing community discussion about public education, which will support the design team throughout the process. I am confident that the plan this team develops will guide our work and inspire us as we continue to transform education in Rhode Island.”