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RIDE Releases Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Report and Recommendations

Recommendations will help guide accelerated learning opportunities to rebuild Rhode Island’s educational system post-pandemic

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green today announced the release of the Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Task Force’s final report and recommendations which will help guide accelerated learning opportunities to rebuild Rhode Island’s educational system post-pandemic, help students get back up to speed, and offer greater access to enriching learning opportunities for students who have historically struggled or experienced barriers to these opportunities.

“The work and recommendations of the LEAP Task Force give Rhode Island a powerful roadmap to get our students not just up to speed, but ahead in the wake of the pandemic,” said Governor McKee. “Ensuring greater access to quality learning opportunities statewide will support students’ success and is an essential aspect of our state’s recovery efforts. I thank all partners involved in this important work for prioritizing the needs and wellbeing of our students and families.”

“We stand at a crossroads for the future of education in Rhode Island where we can rebuild our educational system as it was before or we can rise to the challenge to create a new and better system that gives every student an opportunity to succeed no matter their circumstance,” said Commissioner Infante-Green. “Over the last two months of meetings, filled with robust discussions and passionate advocacy for how to best serve our students in need, we have created an equitable pathway that was crafted by the people it impacts most. I am deeply appreciative of every community member and expert who contributed to the LEAP Task Force and this invaluable collaboration. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to provide every one of our students with the high-quality education they deserve.”

In February 2021, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) convened a diverse group of over thirty educators, school and community leaders, and education experts with the goal of identifying ways for Rhode Island students to recover from the learning challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and widened by systemic inequities. The LEAP Task Force met over the past two months and engaged in an evidence-based process relying on data and the knowledge and expertise of national education experts to compile recommendations for RIDE and school leaders to help guide accelerated learning opportunities this summer and beyond in the wake of the public health crisis. Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green chaired the LEAP Task Force with co-chairs Deputy Commissioner of Instructional Programs, Ana Riley, and 2021 Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year from Exeter-West Greenwich, James Erinakes.

“With the guidance of the LEAP Task Force we will meet this pivotal moment to drastically improve our education system and help students reach their highest potential,” said Rhode Island Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam. “The COVID-19 public health crisis has laid bare gaps and inequities in education that must be addressed to ensure that not one student slips through the cracks. Thanks to the dedication and work of community members and experts who lent their time to this process, we have a greater sense of where we are as a state on education and how we can continue to move forward to better serve families.”

To lay the groundwork for this report and recommendations, the LEAP Task Force identified enabling conditions that were to be met to make the work successful. The conditions included addressing systemic racial inequities in the state’s educational system; centering the voices of students and families in all the group’s work and across the entire educational system; prioritizing cross-sector partnership and intentionally collaborate across Rhode Island's entire education system to implement collective impact approaches; and codifying collective action and shared accountability.

“The work of the LEAP Task Force recognizes the value of various perspectives across stakeholder groups, and sets the context for local education agencies to make strategic decisions about the use of available stimulus funds and the assignment of personnel to have maximum impact on student academic and social-emotional outcomes,” said Exeter-West Greenwich Superintendent and LEAP Task Force Co-chair James Erinakes. “We have an opportunity to build off of the lessons learned during the pandemic, address immediate academic and mental health needs, and set the stage for true systemic change that will refine, reform and accelerate the educational experience for generations to come.”

“The LEAP Task Force offers a transformative vision on accelerated learning opportunities for all students in Rhode Island,” said Chair for Education Policy at Brown University Ken Wong. “The report’s evidence-based, actionable recommendations fundamentally challenge the inertia for piecemeal changes. Instead, the report calls for new systemic efforts to align resources, professional capacity, and community assets at the local, state, and federal level to support student academic growth and mental wellness, especially multilingual learners and students of color. When fully implemented, recommendations of the Task Force will inform the work of the K-12 system beyond Rhode Island in the post-pandemic period.”

With this foundation in place, the group, outlined five LEAP priorities that will truly accelerate student learning and move Rhode Island’s Pre-K to grade 12 system forward. In particular, the work proposes to elevate and center the needs of Rhode Island students who are multilingual, differently-abled, and who live in the urban core through an explicitly anti-racist, equity-focused lens. The priorities include:
• Energize school communities by launching a statewide back-to-school campaign, with particular attention to chronically absent and overaged-under accredited students.
• Ensure all students have access to high-quality and personalized support from adults through extended learning, partnerships for before and after school programming, and summer learning opportunities.
• Universally screen all students and align resources to need.
• Improve and support student transitions across grades and systems.
• Close the digital divide.

To build a high-quality education system based on the recommendations from the LEAP Task Force, RIDE has committed to:
• Establishing transparent and public-facing metrics for success related to LEAP's absolute priorities.
• Fully connecting LEAP’s work to RIDE’s strategic plan and operationalize these recommendations internally across divisions and departments while communicating priorities to school communities.
• Aligning improvement efforts in low-performing schools and districts to the Task Force recommendations.
• Ensuring schools and districts share their priority Rhode Island Core Standards for the 2021-2022 school year with Community-Based Organizations (CBOs).
• Designing and launching a state-wide communications campaign and toolkit to help encourage continued learning and to support school communities with messaging.
• Prioritizing professional development and continued growth by supporting the social-emotional needs of educators, school staff and students.
• Promoting summer educational and enrichment opportunities for families and students through www.EnrollRI.org
• Finalizing and launching a racial equity decision-making tool, both for RIDE and school communities to help center equity in decision-making.

Recently, RIDE launched EnrollRI, a new system for families to browse and register for a wide array of supplemental courses, including summer 2021 opportunities. The centralized tool is in alignment with the work and recommendations of the LEAP Task Force. Currently, families can use EnrollRI to sign up for free math tutoring, free Advanced Placement (AP) prep, and free SAT prep through Schoolhouse.world, and starting on May 3 will be able to view all available All Course Network (ACN) courses for this summer and next academic year. ACN options include enrichment, AP, career credential, dual enrollment, and work-based learning opportunities.

Families interested in more information about this tool are welcome to attend a family and students virtual engagement meeting tonight, Wednesday, April 28 at 6:00 pm or on Wednesday, May 19, at 6:00pm. Both meetings are open to the public and interpretation will be provided.