Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rhode Island's Schools: Where We Stand

In 1995, America’s college graduation rate was first in the world. Ten years later, it ranked 15th. As so many nations around the world continue to improve their systems of education, America can no longer afford to maintain the status quo. In an ever-changing, increasingly competitive global economy, is the United States doing all it can to prepare its students to win jobs and maintain a robust economy?

What about the state of education in our own state? With 39 cities and towns, and almost as many independent school districts, how do Rhode Island's trends in public education differ from national trends, and how are they the same? What's working, what isn't, and why? What innovations are being considered to improve student retention and graduation rates? More important than raising numbers, what is being done to ensure that the quality of preparation adequately equips our children with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and in the workplace?

These questions and more will be addressed in the WSBE Rhode Island PBS production, RHODE ISLAND'S SCHOOLS: WHERE WE STAND. The 30-minute program, hosted by Paul Zangari, airs tonight, Thursday, September 25, at 9 PM, after broadcast of the national documentary, WHERE WE STAND: AMERICA’S SCHOOLS IN THE 21ST CENTURY at 8 PM.

Representing the spectrum of public education, panelists on RHODE ISLAND'S SCHOOLS: WHERE WE STAND will include Virginia Harnois, chairperson of the Smithfield (RI) School Committee and president-elect of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees; John L. Pini, executive director of the Rhode Island School Superintendants Association; John R. Golden, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals; Raymond J. Pouliot, vice president of the National Education Association Rhode Island.

On the national scene, WHERE WE STAND: America’s Schools in the 21st Century presents a frank evaluation of our educational system’s strengths and weaknesses. Hosted by Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the documentary will visit schools throughout Ohio, an important swing state that represents a range of socioeconomic and geographic school districts. The program features schools in urban Cincinnati, suburban Columbus, and rural Belpre.

As for the local discussion, the half hour flew by during taping last week, and even seemed to end abruptly, leaving so much more to discuss. The panelists - each offering excellent perspectives and insights - seemed to feel it, too; they were just getting warmed up by wrap-up.

Look for more from this panel in a future program. We barely scratched the surface of this ongoing topic, and they all agreed to come back again.

In fact, what do you think about a quarterly report on Rhode Island schools? Sort of a televised report card?