A first draft of a strategic plan for the Rhode Island Department of Education was released Monday by the newly-formed Ambassador Design Team. The team comprises 26 community members, including high school students, parents and educators, who were chosen to determine state public education goals for the next five years.
The design team is part of the second stage of a three-stage plan to engage the public in goal-setting for and improvement of the state’s public education system. “Rhode Island is doing something extremely unique,” said Miriam Rollock ’15, an intern at RIDE. Rather than having a government office take charge of education, RIDE’s new strategic plan “allows people whose lives are touched by the Rhode Island education system to lead this process,” she said.
RIDE invited Brown graduate students to help identify areas of priority in the education system before the plan’s implementation, wrote Kenneth Wong, professor of education and chair of the department, in an email to The Herald.
“During the fall semester and under tight time frame, our Brown (urban education policy) master’s students worked as eight research teams to analyze policy and practices in other states on topics such as school turnaround, resource allocation, educator accountability and data infrastructure,” Wong wrote. “Lessons learned were presented to the key staff at (RIDE) at the end of the fall semester.”
The first stage of the strategic plan involved issuing a statewide survey to gauge public opinion on the most important aspects of education, said Elliot Krieger, RIDE public information officer.
In the early phase of the in-progress second stage, the Ambassador Design Team was selected. The team attends weekly meetings and is working to draft a new strategic plan proposal. In the third and final stage — projected for June 2015 — the team will submit the proposal to the Board of Education and the board will vote on whether or not to implement it.
The board closely follows the team’s progress and will likely pass the proposal, said David Moscarelli, Rhode Island Teacher of the Year for 2015 and one of the two facilitators for the team.
The new strategic plan will likely take effect at the beginning of July, Moscarelli said.
The team’s goal is to integrate the information collected in the survey from the first stage of the plan into the proposal, Rollock said, adding that this process will involve visiting schools, hosting community forums and other activities.
Roughly 150 people applied to be on the 26-person team. Of those selected, 12 members make up a core team that will research and write while the other 14 — the extended team — will supplement their work.
“The selection process was largely done in a way that prioritized diversity,” Moscarelli said.
“They wanted a range of views and backgrounds and high quality applications,” Krieger said. “People had to say why they were interested, what they could bring to the process and commit to the process, which is time-consuming for volunteers.”
The team has met twice, with the first meeting held Jan. 10.
Meetings are short because “we’re using design thinking principles, so this idea of rapid prototyping is important,” Moscarelli said. “We need to create products quickly.”
Facilitators ensure the meetings are structured and productive, he added. Homework is assigned after every meeting to further streamline both the facilitators’ and the team members’ understandings of the draft process.
The team’s newly written prototypes were released to the public on RIDE’s website, and community members can send feedback through an online survey.
“The selection of the Ambassador Design Team … indicates that (RIDE) is ready to collaborate with community stakeholders to produce the next strategic plan,” Wong wrote. “I am hopeful that trust can be further promoted between the agency and the community through the strategic process.”