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RIDE Announces the Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Task Force to Analyze and Address COVID-19 Impacts on Learning

Providence, RI- The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced the new Learning, Equity, and Accelerated Pathway (LEAP) Task Force that will convene and engage in a participatory, evidence-informed and data-driven process to understand statewide learning during COVID-19 in partnership with educational experts, practitioners, families, students and community members across the State of Rhode Island. RIDE will use this process to develop recommendations that will inform learning strategy, both short-term and long-term, and align resources to achieve equitable and accelerated results for our students.

“The compounded impacts of COVID-19 have had a devastating effect on student academic and social emotional outcomes across our state and nation,” Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “We know that our students will need additional and accelerated supports that meet their unique needs this year. As a response, we launched this Task Force to help us understand the gravity of the challenge we’re facing and convene partners to help us set a pathway to student success.”

Over the next several weeks, the Task Force will assess the conditions and impacts of COVID-19 on learning in schools and communities across Rhode Island and analyze data available, including aggregate interim assessment results that will be available later this month. The first five meetings will include a presentation from national experts in areas specific to this challenge who will share evidence and support discussion amongst Task Force members.

“Nationally, and in Rhode Island, the costs of the pandemic in education can be seen in the academic costs of students’ unfinished learning, the social-emotional costs of children being without the vital relationships that they deepen with peers and teachers in school buildings, and the economic costs of learning loss for states and our nation. The pandemic has been an equity disaster,” said John King, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “And we’re at risk of losing a generation of children if we do not make the investments and the evidence-informed choices necessary to ensure their success. I’m encouraged by the effort in Rhode Island to examine the effects of unfinished learning amid the pandemic and to develop a plan, that is informed by data and that includes community input, to accelerate students’ learning into the future.”

The Task Force will identify research-based strategies for accelerating learning opportunities in Rhode Island. At the end of the engagement, the Task Force will align additional funding to the final LEAP Task Force priorities:

2/11/2021: Task Force Launch: Keynote Address from the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education, John King
2/16/2021: Understanding Root Causes: Academic and Non-academic Data and Key Analytical Insights
2/23/2021: Extended Learning Opportunities (Dr. Jennifer McCombs, RAND)
3/2/2021: Meeting Needs Equitably: Serving Diverse Populations
3/9/2021: A Whole-of-System Response: A Lens of Equity (Dr. Kenneth Wong, Dr. Pedro Noguera and Prof. Paul Reville)
3/16/2021: Final Recommendations: Task Force delivers final recommendations to Commissioner

In composing the Task Force, RIDE took an inclusive approach, looking to the field for expertise and knowledge. Additionally, there will be two rounds of feedback with the Commissioner's RI Student Council and the Commissioner's RI Educators of Color Committee. Task Force members are still confirming their participation and a full list will be posted on RIDE’s website ahead of the Task Force launch on February 11. The launch will be hosted on RIDE's YouTube page and the LEAP webpage will include information for the upcoming meeting streams.

The Task Force continues the work the agency has begun on measuring student learning during the pandemic. This past year, RIDE created a Master Price Agreement with four vendors for interim assessments to support LEAs in measuring student learning throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Prior to the analysis of Rhode Island assessment results, anecdotal evidence has been clear that students have suffered learning loss and have increased social emotional needs and challenges, which is supported by national reports and review.

The NWEA reported that preliminary estimates suggest “students will return in fall 2020 with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year.” They also projected that in mathematics “students are likely to show much smaller learning gains, returning with less than 50% of the learning gains.” Historical crises have resulted in devastating impacts to student academic and social emotional outcomes in places like New Orleans and Puerto Rico. Early anyalsis notes the disparities and impact on families and communities of color from the pandemic call for a clear and immediate need for accelerated learning opportunities.

At the conclusion of the expert-led discussions, the Task Force will deliver recommendations to Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green in the form of a report. This report will help guide future investments in accelerated education throughout Rhode Island. Additional questions or information for consideration as part of this process can be sent to LEAPTaskForce@ride.ri.gov.