The Commissioner's Letter
Dear Fellow Rhode Islanders:
During the last few years there has been a noticeable shift in activity on the state's educational landscape. Schools and school districts are focusing on student results in the context of state expectations of performance, they are using a wealth of data to plan for progress, and conversations about improving schools are increasingly well informed. This focus has been deliberate, and it is in the spirit of nourishing the dialogue that we present the second edition of Information Works! Measuring Rhode Island Schools for Change.
Information Works! spotlights state priorities. We do this to provide schools and their communities with guideposts as they map out their plans for school improvement. For example, like last year's document, the 1999 report shares results from the state assessments, or tests, with a particular emphasis on literacy and numeracy. We share these results in the context of the school, by illustrating the characteristics of a student population, indicators of a school's climate, such as graduation and suspension rates, and in light of a district's financial resources. This year we also report select information from the SALT surveys that students, teachers, parents and administrators took for the first time in spring 1998, as well as school targets for improvement. Each graphic summary paints a unique picture of each public school and school district in Rhode Island.
We share all of this data as part of a much larger strategy aimed at building an education system that is focused on and accountable for student learning. Achieving this goal requires that schools and their communities, as well as policy makers at all levels, use the information to understand a school, to assess its strengths and challenges, and to guide decisions for improvement. We have broad policy agreement on this agenda; it began as a national call, and has become real in our state through the combined leadership of the General Assembly, the Governor, the Board of Regents, and with the full partnership of the state's education community.
I extend gratitude to the many hands that joined to create this tool. This document, both its contents and its actual production, would not be possible were it not for the fortuitous partnership the Rhode Island Department of Education and the University of Rhode Island's National Center on Public Education have forged. Furthermore, every element of data in this book relies on the cooperation, good will and commitment of people in schools throughout the state.