Problems through out the United States

Not every school district is inherently perfect, and this is no exception for the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Coventry School District that resides within it. Flaws can range from a multitude of areas, from educational attainment, to student attendance, diversity, and even student achievements. These problems are all common through out the United States, and there are programs and procedures that educators and the government have devised to improve the quality of schools not in just Rhode Island but in the country as a whole. Despite all the problems that can occur in a district there are many attributes that can be contributed to both the state and the Coventry Schooling District. Those attributes can be credited to a single school, a single district, or the entire state as a whole depending on the type of achievement. Through out Rhode Island there are great aspects of both the district and the schools within it, as well as problem areas that can be remedied with the implementation of certain programs and thoughtful instruction planned by teachers. Rhode Island does have flaws in their education system that are attributed to the combination of all the districts as a whole, and there is a bidirectional influence of these flaws on the schools and the educational system of Rhode Island as a whole. These flaws help educators discern the types of programs to implement in schools, and the resulting testing scores and schools statistics are both influenced by these programs and later help determine if there are more education needs in the system. The education needs that are refereed to here are in comparison to other states in the country and the Coventry Schooling District, and they include educational attainment, chronic absenteeism, and student achievement. Educational attainment is defined as the level of education that individuals achieve, such as receiving a high school diploma or GED, and attaining higher education attainment such as a bachelors and beyond. Rhode Island is on the lower end of the spectrum in comparison with the country as a whole in terms of educational attainment. The highest percentage of educational attainment lies within the state of Montana with 92.9%, while the lowest percentage is within the state of California with 82.1% (US Census Bureau, 2012-16). In comparison with other states Rhode Island is in the lower to middle end of the spectrum with a percentage of 87% education attainment, in which 87% of students in the State of Rhode Island have a high school diploma or higher (US Census Bureau 2012-16). There is a gap of 5.9% of students not attaining a high school diploma or higher between Rhode Island and Montana, and out of a 100 students that is roughly 17 students that are not meeting graduation requirements. Other states are also in the same boat as Rhode Island in terms of education attainment, and one such state is Washington and they are going a legislative route to remedy their decrease of educational attainment. They have a plan called the 2017-19 Strategic Action Plan, in which they are focusing their energy as a state on four areas: affordability, readiness, completion, and employment ( Thompson, 2017). In these areas education officials are trying to increase education attainment by making college more affordable, increasing college completion and career readiness, and ensuring graduates meet employment needs (Thompson, 2017). This can be effective in Rhode Island through the approach of teachers, especially if they recognize those four areas of concern. Teachers have the ability to direct students to help them find financial aid, education, and mental support in order for them to have the opportunity to go to college. Teacher direction can only be effective if the state funds and gives support to grants, scholarships, student support systems that work on closing the opportunity gap, and work towards student employment after graduation. One area in which the district of Coventry is fairing better than the state as a whole is chronic absenteeism, especially at the high school level. For the four core cities in Rhode Island has a higher percentage of chronically absent students in comparison to the remainder of the state, which raises the overall average of the state (Kids Count, 2018). In Coventry High School they have a chronic absentee percentage of 17%, in which 17% of the students from 9th to 10th grade have 15 or more days that they are absent from school (Infoworks, 2015-16).While the state as a whole has a chronic absentee rate of 26%, which is a 9% difference and means that out of 100 students there are roughly 11 more students missing school in comparison to Coventry High School (Infoworks, 2015-16). In comparison with the nation overall, Rhode Island is suffering from higher rates of chronic high school absenteeism, as the U.S. has an average of 18.9% of students with chronic absenteeism ( U.S. Department of Education 2013-14). Obama’s Presidential Administration considered chronic absenteeism an education problem that needed the launch of a new program to increase student attendance for at risk youth. This program is known as My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Success Mentor Initiative, in which caring mentors are connected with student to help motivate, teach, coach, and promote student attendance (U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet, 2016). In the U.S Department of Education Archive there is a facts sheet which explain the role of a mentor, in which they meet with 3 to 5 student mentees 3 times per a week all year long. Through out the year the mentors help the mentees find their positive strengths, celebrate those strengths, and also engage with parents to encourage their participation (2016). In Rhode Island, the state can adopt this program and teachers can volunteer to be mentors for students and even incorporate celebrating a students strength and call for parent involvement into their classroom to promote attendance. One other place in which the state of Rhode Island is suffering, is in student achievement, and that in particular is testing such as the SAT. The SAT is a special standardized test, in that every state has students that are participating to be able to apply to college. For Rhode Island, the state is once again on the lower to middle end of the spectrum, where the highest state SAT score average is Minnesota with 1295 point out of 1600 points, and District of Columbia has the lowest score at 950 points (Cheng, 2017). Rhode Island has an average score, according to Cheng, of 1062, which makes us 37th in the country (2017). Data from the year 2015-16 states that Rhode Island has a mathematics average score of 478 out of 800 points, a reading average score of 478 out of 800 points , and a writing average score of 465 out of 800 points. The nationwide average score in those three area have an average of a 21 point difference in comparison to statewide scores. Rhode Island has more than half the country above them in SAT scores, which is an indicator that there needs to be improvement through the implementation of new programs. A way to maximize student achievement would be the implementation of a program such as Salad High School’s SCORE in South Carolina. SCORE stands for “Saluda Creates Opportunities for Real Effectiveness” and generally was designed so that students of all backgrounds are able to access important and pivotal learning experiences (Duggins, 2017). This program essentially is an after school tutoring center that is running two days a week between and hour and and hour and a half (Duggins, 2017). After running this program the students have shown an increase in test scores and that in application to Rhode Island could help SAT and standardized testing scores because they are enhancing student skills all year. A lot of school and students make the mistake of learning information for the SAT in a short amount of time instead of learning that information over the course of a students 12 years of public education. Essentially the students have a walk in tutoring center in a safe environment that year round, every year helps them to be able to keep up with homework and stay on grade level in critical ares such as reading, math, and writing. Duggins writes that teachers there help not only with students working on homework, but also students who are English Language Learners, and students seeking advance placement support which includes SAT prep. Teachers should open their doors after hours, during lunch, or even during academic lab and create study groups or walk in clinics to help their students learn. Incorporating trust and mutually listening skills into the classroom will help the teacher hear their students needs in terms of academic concerns, so that as a team both the teachers and students can work towards increased academic achievement. Looking closer at the district of Coventry, one main needs that presents itself in the educational system is the sever lack of diversity in the student body. The majority of students in the Coventry district are white with a total of 92%, which leaves only 8% diversity among the student body (Infoworks, 2016-17) . That means that out of a hundred students only 8 would be of diverse culture, and that would put a lot of pressure on teachers to be more culturally competent. With the lack of diversity, teachers still need to be able to incorporate cultural competency in their classroom even if they have the same race as the majority of the school. Students from more diverse backgrounds still need to see an incorporation of their culture in everyday school, whether a teacher introduces innovators or lessons incorporating scientists, writers, and artists of different cultures along with traditional standard of European culture. One way to increase the diversity in the Coventry schooling district would be to open or convert an existing school into a magnet school. A magnet school is basically described as a school that is specialized in a certain academic area such as STEM, Fine Arts, or CTE, while also being open to all students regardless of zip code (Magnet Schools of America, 2013-17). Having a school that would be free for anyone regardless of their zip code would bring in a diverse group of students and create a great environment in which to learn about academics and the world around them. Not only do magnet schools focus on the academic side but their work in developing soft skills is an attribute that will attract students from all over the state of Rhode Island ( Magnet Schools of America, 2013-17). That will be an improvement, because unlike the district of Coventry there is more diversity within the state of Rhode Island as a whole, with a percentage of 15.9% diversity (United State Census Bureau, 2010-17). With in the Coventry school district resides Coventry High School, which has a higher rate of suspension per 100 students then the state of Rhode Island as a whole. Coventry high school has about 35.1 students being suspended per 100 students, while Rhode Island has 32.2 per 100 students being suspended (Infoworks, 2014-15). There are roughly about 3 more students being suspended from Coventry High School in comparison to the average of all the schools in the state. Those students who are being suspended are suffering due to their prolonged absence in school as they are falling behind in classes, missing out on pivotal social interactions, and becoming more demoralized about going to and doing well in school. Teachers should try to focus on the needs of students who show a propensity for disruptive behavior and how they can help them regulate their actions within the school setting. One program that stands out and could be a positive reinforcement tool that can be used in a high school setting would be a program known as PRIDE: Personal Responsibility In Daily Effort. PRIDE has students who are showing disruptive behavior use their own ability to be accountable for their actions and suffer smaller but not school demoralizing consequences. Students would have to be responsible for their behavior because if they have a missing assignment, miss school, or receive disciplinary action they would be unable to hand in a clear stamp card in return for special privileges such as field trip and class dance admissions (Iselin & Rosch, 2010). This would not only teach the students better temperament and emotional management but also allow the student to have an incentive to behave in class and limit outbursts that lead to disciplinary action such as detention. These cards can be modified by teachers and schools to fit their students needs and that will further increase student success, especially if there was the introduction of a teacher advisor that developed supportive relationships with those students. Despite all the downfalls in the Rhode Island and Coventry schooling districts there are some positive attributes on a state, district, and individual school level. To begin, in the state of Rhode Island as a whole only 2% of classes are taught by teachers who are not highly qualified (Infoworks, 2015-16). This means that 98% of all the classes in every school in the state have teachers that are highly qualified, in comparison to other larger states and cities in which their staff are not always qualified to be teaching. This includes qualifications of teachers in both low and high poverty schools, where love poverty schools have less than 1% and high poverty schools have 2% of teachers with lower quality skills (Infoworks, 2012-13). To be a highly qualified teacher in Rhode Island, a teacher must hold a bachelors degree, full state certification, and show a certain level of mastery for each core academic content that they teach ( Gist, n.d.). The schooling district is really strong in terms of teacher qualification, as 98 out of 100 teachers in Rhode Island hold all three certifications to be considered a highly qualified teacher. Another great attribute of the education system in Rhode Island is their amazing student to teacher ration which is as of 2015 to 2016 school year 1 teacher per 13 students in a classroom setting (Infoworks, 2015-16). Having 1 teacher per every 13 students is a small classroom size, but there are many benefits for both teachers and students in having smaller classroom sizes. For instance teachers have a better understanding of their students as individuals due to the increase of one on one time, along with an easier time at classroom management, and balancing the individual needs of each student. Students will have a better relationship with their teachers, because of their increased amount of one on one time, which will foster a better sense of safety in the environment. This sense of safety will promote learning and the students academic achievement, will improve along with their motivation to come to school and interact socially. In most states their goals for student to teachers ratios are 1 teacher per every 15 students, but not every state is fortunate and have even higher ratios such as 1 teacher per every 30 students. States with higher student to teacher ratios are Ohio, North Dakota, Tennessee, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Massachusetts. With ratios ranging from 1 teacher per 25 students and 1 teacher per 30 students (Education Commission, 2014). Larger classrooms may be a challenge for students to effectively learn in, and states such as Rhode Island are a model in terms of student to teacher ratios. For the district of Coventry they have a higher high school graduation rate in comparison to the state and country as a whole. Coventry has a high school graduation rate of 92% while the country and the state of Rhode Island share the same graduation rate of 87% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012-16). Having a high graduation rate allows for student when they graduation to easily apply to college and to easily get a job, which can help decrease unemployment rates and poverty rates in Rhode Island. In comparison to the state as a while Coventry has a poverty rate of 7.1% while the state has a rate of 12.8%, which is a 5.7% difference. Although small having a higher amount of high school graduates can have a large impact on the economy, the district, and the state as a whole. Two schools that stand out in the Coventry school district are Western Coventry Elementary School and Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School, which both have a great stability index of 94% (Infoworks, 2015-16). A stability index means that 94% of students that begin their educations in those schools will graduate and not move out of the system or transfer to another school. Many students in other towns or schools such as the Central Falls school district in Rhode Island will have a low stability index in which only 78% of their students will stay in their system with out transferring (Infoworks, 2015-16). When students stay in one place for an extended period of time with out having to move to a new school, they will begin to feel safe and comfortable and be more susceptible to learning because they are not anxious and are in a stable environment. Having such as high stability index is really great in younger grade areas such as middle and elementary school because those are very formative years in education for students due to the fact that they are beginning to learn the very basics of education. Moving from town to town or between states can disrupt a students learning due to the chance in course material or even moving to a state that may not have common core standards or does have common core. In each education system their may be aspect that work and aspects that are in need of improvement, for Rhode Island they are no exception, but the combined effort of teacher and state officials can work to improve the educational system of Rhode Island as a whole. To help fix flaws such as diversity, educational attainment, student achievements, standardized testing scores, and chronic absenteeism there are more programs that can be of service and help students grow. Teachers can help create environments, make lessons, and talk to their students using theses mentioned and many other programs to help students gain a better grasp of themselves as learners. Already teachers have proven great in the state of Rhode Island by being deemed highly qualified teachers as a majority, creating smaller classrooms for effective teaching, and by helping over 90% of their students graduate.

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