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Rhode Island Schools Improving, Says U.S. Education Secretary Duncan

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Congress is hammering out new requirements for public schools and federal school funding. The current bill, commonly known as the "No Child Left Behind...

Congress is hammering out new requirements for public schools and federal school funding. The current bill, commonly known as the "No Child Left Behind Act," has been controversial because of the way it uses standardized test scores to measure public schools. Changes to the bill have been proposed in both houses of Congress.  

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke with Rhode Island Public Radio's education reporter Elisabeth Harrison from Washington, D.C. to explain what these proposals could mean for Rhode Island.

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressed serious concerns about proposed changes to the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, which governs public schools and their federal funding.

Duncan warned that a Republican proposal could reduce funding for needy urban districts, re-directing the money into wealthier schools.

"For a state like Rhode Island over the next five years or so, in terms of Title I money, that could be as much as $26 million," said Duncan.  "Going from the neediest communities to more affluent communities."

On standardized testing, Duncan added he would like to see Congress impose a cap, and he hopes the re-authorization of the federal law will include a greater focus on early childhood education.

When asked how he views Rhode Island, Duncan praised the state for what he sees as progress in  public schools.

"Rhode Island is a state that is moving in the right direction," Duncan said. "Dropout rates for Hispanic students have been cut in half, for Hispanic students they’ve been cut as well, graduation rates are way up."

Still, he cautioned the state has more work to do.

Duncan suggested looking to Tennessee and  Delaware for potential next steps, including  a long-term commitment to funding preschool programs and a commitment to getting every high school student a college acceptance letter.

Rhode Island Schools Improving, Says U.S. Education Secretary Duncan
Rhode Island Schools Improving, Says U.S. Education Secretary Duncan