Big graduation problem looms in tiny Rhode Island

Clearing the Bar (photo by Shane T. McCoy)

If a bar is set high, will students rise to meet it?

The  question has to be on the mind of anyone watching the progress of students in Rhode Island as the state moves toward stringent new graduation requirements.  The question is both fascinating and painful.

At least 10 districts in the state are finding out just how hard it is  to make high schools more rigorous, as Jennifer Jordan of the Providence Journal reports.

The word “rigor” may be overused and misleading, but Rhode Island is struggling to make sure that no students graduate without being able to read, write and compute at a high school level. That doesn’t sound that hard, right?

And yet, it truly is. Former Education Commissioner Peter McWalters called it “hard, complicated and tedious work,” according to the story, and told teachers it could take years to ensure that what happens in the classroom is aligned with statewide standards for every grade.

The story does a good job of laying out the obstacles, which include  making sure all students have access to the most demanding courses  and that struggling readers also get the help they need.

Other states are trying to do what Rhode Island is doing, but according to different timetables.  If Rhode Island can’t fix some of the obstacles, Jordan notes, at least 10 school districts may be unable to issue diplomas to students in 2012.

–Liz Willen

POSTED BY ON April 8, 2010