4-5-13 Field Memo

Commissioner’s Weekly Field Memo
Friday, April 5, 2013


 

Notes from Commissioner Gist


1.      Rhode Island high schools participate in developing international assessment 
 
2.      Providence Schools win grant to advance student-centered learning 
 
3.      Providence Career and Technical Academy teams hope to compete in world robotics championships 
 

4.      Coventry middle-school teacher wins My Favorite Teacher contest 

5.      Rhode Island student musicians, ensembles gather awards at jazz festival 

 

From the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE)


Mentorships and Training: 


6.      RIDE seeking mentor principals for the Academy for Transformative Leadership
 
 Assessments:
 
7.      RIDE continuing to accept suggestions for assessments through which students can meet graduation requirement
 

Career-Technical Education:


8.      Congressman Langevin, RIDE reschedule event on career and technical education
 

Action Item Calendar

 
April 26: Spring 2013 testing schedules due 
May 3: Distinguished Educator nominations due
 

Notes from Commissioner Gist


1.      Rhode Island high schools participate in developing international assessment 


One of the goals of our strategic plan, Transforming Education in Rhode Island, is to accelerate all of our schools toward greatness. But what do we mean by “greatness”? Considering school performance relative to the performance of other schools is one way to measure achievement – and progress. But achievement measured against what? Progress toward what?

 
Today, we know that our graduates will be citizens not only of their community and of our state. Our graduates will also be citizens of our country, and of our world. That’s why so many of us have been interested in international assessments such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which provides information on student performance on an international basis. 
 
Last year, folks from five of our school districts volunteered to have some of their high-school students participate in a pilot test called the OECD Test for Schools, developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which also sponsors the PISA. 
 
On Wednesday (April 3), I joined leaders from the schools that participated in the pilot test at a meeting in Washington to discuss the OECD pilot. The OECD team will use data and information that they gather from the pilot test to develop a new PISA assessment, which will provide participating schools with detailed reports on their performance benchmarked against countries from around the world. All participating schools will be able to use this information as they work to accelerate toward greatness. As we get more information about the new PISA assessment, which the OECD will administer during the next school year, I will encourage other Rhode Island high schools to take advantage of this opportunity for growth and feedback.
 
I am proud that of the 105 participating high schools in the OECD Pilot, seven are from Rhode Island: 
 
•         Central Falls Senior High School;
•         Chariho Regional High School;
•         East Greenwich High School;
•         Shea, Tolman, and Walsh High Schools, in Pawtucket; and
•         Westerly High School.
 
Thanks to the forward-thinking leaders, teachers, and students in these schools and districts for taking on this challenge. You have helped in the design and development process of a valuable tool that will help improve teaching and learning. There will be other Rhode Island high schools to participate in the OECD Test for Schools (Based on PISA), which will take place during the coming school year. We will share information about this opportunity with you as we receive further communications. 

 

2.      Providence Schools win grant to advance student-centered learning

 
The Providence Public Schools has received a $450,000 grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to advance “student-centered learning.” According to the Foundation, which is based in Quincy, Mass., the 20-month grant is designed “to help low-income districts build capacity to enable more students to achieve at a higher level, and meet the Common Core State Standards”  and “to support systemic remodeling efforts that will better equip students with the critical thinking, problem-solving, and communications skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.” Providence is one of seven districts in New England to win a New Approaches in Urban Education grant from the Foundation. Congratulations to Superintendent Lusi and her team in the Providence schools on this significant accomplishment!
 

3.      Providence Career and Technical Academy teams hope to compete in world robotics championships

 

When it comes to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), great things are happening this year at the Providence Career and Technical Academy. In February, the Academy team Rhody Girls became the first all-girls team to claim the state FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition. Their robot PrettyBot was decked  out with pink LED lights and with a Rhode Island license plate. Last month, one of the boys’ robotics teams at the Academy, the Rhode Rebels, took first place in the FIRST Regional Competition. Congratulations to the Rhody Girls and the Rhode Rebels! Both teams are raising funds to help them travel to the FIRST Robotics World Championship competition, in St. Louis, beginning on April 24. For information on the fundraising, you can contact the director of the Providence Career and Technical Academy, Ramon Torres, or team mentor Bob Murphy.

4.      Coventry middle-school teacher wins My Favorite Teacher contest 


Congratulations to Mary Lou Bettez, from the Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School, in Coventry, who is the Rhode Island winner of the Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher Contest. One of her students, Adriana Servant, nominated Mary Lou for the award. Barnes & Noble will recognize both Mary Lou and Adriana in an awards ceremony on April 24, at the store at 1350 Bald Hill Rd., Warwick. Congratulations also go to 2nd-place winner Jaclyn Laplante –Beauchemin, of Winman Junior High, in Warwick (and her student Gabrielle Bianco) and 3rd-place winner Tiffany Debrosca, of the Wickford Middle School (and her student Kristin McGrath). Mary Lou Bettez will now compete for the regional My Favorite Teacher award. Good luck, Mary Lou!
 

5.      Rhode Island student musicians, ensembles gather awards at jazz festival 


Jazz ensembles from 16 Rhode Island high schools participated last month in the 47th Annual Berklee Jazz Festival, at the Berklee College of Music, in Boston. Ensembles from six of our public high schools won awards, including Barrington High School (2 awards), directed by Barbara Hughes; East Greenwich High School (35th consecutive participation), directed by Brendan Carniaux; North Smithfield Senior High School (1st-place award), directed by Fritz Benz; South Kingstown High School, directed by Donald Smith; Tiverton High School, directed by Mike Alves; and West Warwick Senior High School (35th consecutive participation), directed by Metro A. Narcisi III. Individual students also received recognition, including Outstanding Musicianship Awards to Matt Ethier, of North Smithfield High School, Andrew Minor, of East Greenwich High School, and Cooper Pallasch, of Tiverton High School, and a Superior Musicianship Award to Isaac Davis, of Tollgate High School, in Warwick. As Mr. Narcisi noted in a memo on the festival: “Rhode Island high-school jazz ensembles pretty much stole the show at the world’s largest one-day jazz festival.” Congratulations to all of the great musicians and music educators in our high schools! 


From RIDE


Mentorships and Training: 
 

6.      RIDE seeking mentor principals for the Academy for Transformative Leadership


RIDE’s Academy for Transformative Leadership, a statewide Race to the Top-funded initiative, trains and supports aspiring turnaround leaders to transform schools that we have identified for improvement (Focus and Priority Schools). During the coming school year, the 8 aspiring school leaders who join the Academy will devote their year to intensive, full-year residencies in schools throughout the state. 
 
In addition to seeking aspiring principals, we are also seeking committed and reflective principals to join the Mentor Principal Pool. The members of the Mentor Principal Pool will serve as either year-long or short-term mentors to the aspiring leaders enrolled in the Academy. 
 
Each Aspiring Turnaround Leader will be matched with a Residency Mentor who can meet the aspiring leader’s learning needs. Residency Mentors host our aspiring leaders in their school buildings for a full academic year and receive a $2,500 stipend for mentoring. 
 
Members of the Mentor Pool will participate in one or more of the following activities:
 
  • possible selection as a full-year Residency Mentor; 
  • hosting the Aspiring Turnaround Leaders cohort for a school visit;
  • hosting one Aspiring Turnaround Leader for a “switch-month” mini-residency;
  • stepping in mid-year to take over as a full-time Residency Mentor should the need arise;
  • receiving invitations to participate in other Academy for Transformative Leadership events.

Applications are due on May 10.

View job description

 
 Assessments:
 

7.      RIDE continuing to accept suggestions for approved assessments through which students can meet graduation requirement


To meet one of the graduation requirements in the Rhode Island Diploma System, high-school juniors are required to demonstrate partial proficiency (level 2) on the NECAP assessments in reading and mathematics or show improvement when they retake these assessments, if necessary, in their senior year.  If students do not meet this requirement, they have the option to take and submit scores from another assessment that RIDE has approved. 
 
In September, we published an initial list of approved assessments and the required cut scores to meet the graduation requirement for each of those assessments. Over the past year, we have invited all LEAs to submit other assessments for potential inclusion on our approved list, using the RIDE developed protocol. During our recent visits to high schools across the state, LEAs submitted a number of assessments for consideration. We will review these assessments, following our protocol, and if they are appropriate we will add them by July to the list of approved assessments. 
 
We will review additional assessments submitted by LEAs for the 2014-15 school year, and we will update the list of approved assessments by July 1, 2014.  Both the t

est-submission protocol and the current list of RIDE-approved assessments are available to view.

Career-Technical Education:
 

8.      Congressman Langevin, RIDE reschedule event on career and technical education


Because of schedule conflicts, the event on career and technical education that Congressman Langevin and Commissioner Gist announced in a previous Field Memo (March 22) will be rescheduled for this fall, at a date to be determined. You will receive an e-mail invitation from RIDE once the event is rescheduled. We encourage you to share this information with faculty members and others involved with multiple pathways and career-technical education, including school counselors, students, and families.