2018-02-15 / Opinion


A Call To Action For Newport Public Schools

Present State Of Affairs: Test scores on the 2017 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) indicate that the number of Newport students meeting or exceeding expectations in literacy and math are well below where they need to be. As if to underscore this deficiency, one of our local legislators, State Sen. Louis DiPalma, recently stated that two-thirds of the incoming CCRI freshman class were required to take one, two or even three remedial/developmental education courses. The obvious conclusion is that, while many are doing quite well in our schools, far too many need additional help.

Juxtaposed against this assessment, a much-quoted 2013 study by the University of Oxford Department of Engineering Science estimated that 47 percent of current jobs are at risk of falling victim to automation, perhaps within a decade or two. In fact, just last month, the McKinley Global Institute released a report that found that one-third of American workers may have to switch jobs in the next dozen or so years because of A.I. (artificial intelligence). In fact, economic analyses from around our nation, and from most of the developed world, are consistently unanimous in reporting that our graduates will face quite a different and daunting economic challenge than the one we ourselves experienced. Given this forthcoming reality, the school community of Newport must urgently and significantly step up its educational performance.

The Challenge: Our community and our nation will also be at significant risk in maintaining our competitive standing unless we start upgrading immediately. In Newport, in part as a response, the newly updated Newport Strategic Plan (npsri.net and click on District Strategic Planning Quicklinks), with specifically targeted goals and objectives, has been approved by the School Committee. As a result, much is therefore already underway including technology upgrades, early childhood reading and math targeted improvements and expanded multiple pathway opportunities for graduation. But, much more is needed.

Meanwhile, the overall reality is that the Newport student body is an appealingly diverse population with a variety of attractive as well as challenging aspects. Many students are successfully graduating and moving on to productive careers. But, candidly, there are also many families and students struggling economically and educationally. To be sure, all the students entrusted to our care deserve our best effort and our highest commitment. In fact, the education of our children is a vivid window into the soul of our community and the responsibility to educate them to the best of our ability is a deeply moral one. It is our community’s highest calling which speaks to who we are as a people and how much we value this lovely place we proudly call our home. This world-class community should have a world-class school system.

Call To Action: The Newport community is peopled by talented, generous individuals willing to help and get involved. Thompson Middle School and Pell School surely attest to that. Now, as we together face this latest and most critical challenge, we need to fully embrace the Newport Public Schools Strategic Plan as the way forward. It is a clear direction, which, as a living document, may be revised and expanded as we proceed. It identifies the critical areas for added investment and where more community energy, resources and talent may be brought to bear. As we come to embrace these needed efforts, the strategic plan will grow and respond dynamically, but only with community involvement and support.

At present, we should acknowledge the numerous volunteer efforts (tutors, mentors, internships, pathway partners, career advisers, just to mention a few) already implementing the strategic plan but, again, many more are needed. At the same time, a more powerful and widely coordinated community effort is also urgently needed. To help build this support the ONE NEWPORT committee is working to visit with community partners and explore opportunities. At the same time, progress reports on the schools and the strategic plan will be periodically provided in the media and appropriate follow-up will be initiated and reported out to the community. As needs are reported, the ONE NEWPORT committee will help identify and facilitate a response. To do so effectively, we will need help.

Come join us; our children and our community need your talent, experience and commitment.

Act Now To Get Involved: Please contact Marcin Rembisz at marcinrembisz@nprsi.net and advise that you wish to get involved. Simply stated; if we are not part of the solution, we are most assuredly part of the problem.

Dave Wixted, with ONE NEWPORT committee support from: Ken Nomiyama (Chair), Elise Adams, Louisa Boatwright, Kaitlin Lambert Donahue, Isabel Griffith, Adrienne Haylor, Hank Kniskern, Donna McCarthy

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