What’s it take to be a grad?

Proposed language graduation requirement concerns educators

Posted 3/16/22


The high school class of 2027 would be required to have two years of world language under graduation requirements being proposed by the Rhode Island Department of …

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What’s it take to be a grad?

Proposed language graduation requirement concerns educators



The high school class of 2027 would be required to have two years of world language under graduation requirements being proposed by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

 On March 22 from 4 to 6 p.m., the public will have their first chance to be heard at a hybrid meeting scheduled at CCRI in Warwick.

If approved, the new requirements would be aligned for what is required to be accepted into the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College including two years of “world language.”

Currently students aren’t required to take any foreign language classes in order to graduate.

In a phone interview Monday, Warwick Superintendent Lynn Dambruch expressed her concerns regarding the language requirement.

“There's not enough certified foreign language teachers in Rhode Island,” said Dambruch.

Cranston Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said that the concern is one shared in Cranston as well.

“We’re having great difficulty finding staff in the area,” said Nota-Masse.

Aside from staffing, Warwick Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey pointed out students would  be limited to the number of electives that they can take.

“We always like to give them some choice because some students have a passion for art or for music and it would be a shame if they don’t have that option anymore,” said Dambruch.

Lisa Schultz, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment for Warwick  said she doesn’t view having enough teacher applicants as a problem in order to fill the world language classes however, she said that the issue may be whether or not those who apply are certified.

“We could always emergency certify,” said Schultz.

Schultz said that in some circumstances – including recently – that is what needs to be done.

“That's going to be an interesting point of contention,” she  said.

Asked if RIDE has any proposal to address the lack of world language teachers in the state, Victor Morente, a spokesperson for RIDE in an email said “We hear that concern and we are actively working with our higher education institutions and the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner to address the issue.”

“It’s deeply important that we find a solution that prepares our students to go to college if they choose to, and both Rhode Island College and University of RI require that incoming students have credits in world language,” said Morente. “We must have a conversation about the impact this is having on our students educational opportunities available to them after high school, especially for economically disadvantaged students and students of color.”

The RIDE proposal also aims to clarify what science and math courses students are required to take.

While students will still need to take four math and three science courses by the time they graduate it clarifies that two of the science classes students take need to be lab based, and students need to take algebra 1, 2 and geometry.

Nota-Masse said Cranston is already doing many of the things RIDE has proposed. The only requirement the school would potentially need to include is the computer science component. Cranston also has a lot of programs that prepare students for the workforce after graduation and additional requirements could make it hard for students to explore these pathway programs since they would be "competing for time."

“I think we need to invest more time and effort into resources and into programs that allow students to graduate from high school and enter a career that is high-wage high-demand sector looking for many employment,” Nota-Masse said. She said the additional requirements could make it difficult for students to explore that path to take these additional requirements, saying that students are “competing for time.”

It was pointed out on Monday that financial literacy will be required for students to graduate starting in 2024. The requirement came after the General Assembly passed legislation last year requiring it.

“That's exciting for our students so they can get some real world application,” said Schultz.

Union responds

Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh in a phone interview Monday said “RIDE has lost touch with what actually goes on in schools.”

“RIDE is great about creating unfunded mandates,” said Netcoh.

Netcoh said Monday that last year the District cut a portion of the world language teachers before the District knew about the new requirements.

“Now they are going to try to add people back and cut from somewhere else it doesn’t make sense,” said Netcoh.

While in most circumstances language in the union contract only allows for 40 teachers to receive layoff notices per year and only allows for 20 teachers to be ultimately cut, Netchoh said she doesn’t want to see anyone lose their job in order to fulfill the world language courses being taught.

“I don’t want to lose anybody,” said Netcoh.

Asked Monday night how many cuts were made to the world language department last year, Kim Ruggieri Director of Human Resources said “We look at student need when determining staffing for the following year.”

“We consider how many students are enrolled in a certain subject in each school and determine how many sections are needed to meet the needs of the students,” said Ruggieri. “ Last spring, in preparing for the 2021-2022 school year, the foreign language department consisting of 24 teachers was reduced by 2.”

Ruggieri said that both reductions were made at the middle school level.

Netcoh argued that more flexibility should be offered for students rather than less.

“Offering a variety of courses for students to elect is better than locking students into specific course requirements,” said Netchoh.

Like the Administration, Netchoh pointed out that by having more requirements it means less flexibility for students' schedules.

“The more requirements they have the less choices that students have,”  said Netchoh.

According to a release,  RIDE hosted a series of Reimagining High School working group meetings from June to November 2021 to help ‘RIDE learn how to reimagine the high school experience and graduation requirements to better meet the needs of all of our students.’

“During these meetings, students, families, and educators from across the state shared and engaged with relevant data and experiences from our schools on how to improve the high school experience,” the press release read. “Meeting attendees shared feedback, participated in breakout groups, and generated ideas that shaped RIDE’s recommendations to the K-12 Council.”

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