WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee and R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced a new program Tuesday morning they hope will help the school districts that were significantly impacted by the pandemic.
The new Learning, Equity, and Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) District Support Program is a two-year program for school districts disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
McKee and Infante-Green said the program will bring their post-pandemic recovery efforts into line with the recommendations of the LEAP Task Force that met earlier this year.
Program participants will be eligible for matching funds, ranging from $1.4 million to $4 million, from a pool of more than $20 million to invest in programs that will accelerate student learning in the coming years, as well as specialized supports.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a more prosperous equitable, and resilient Rhode Island, especially when it comes to our students and their education,” McKee said.
Eligible districts for the program include Central Falls, East Providence, Johnston, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick and Woonsocket.
These districts were selected through a composite index composed of the following: COVID-19 health metrics, academic performance, population of students from historically underserved student groups, and school climate and student wellbeing.
“This statewide plan, aligned to the findings of the experts, community leaders, and educators who comprised the LEAP Task Force, will help us to remedy those inequities and accelerate learning for the students most in need,” Infante-Green said. “Together, we can make every school in Rhode Island a center for learning and growth.”
Eligible districts will begin planning for the work within the next couple of weeks.
The results of the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) test results released last week showed students’ proficiency in math and English language arts dropped significantly.
The RICAS results also show a drop in participation in the mandatory standardized tests, which were administered in person this past spring.
The tests were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, meaning 2021 was the first time the students sat the exam since spring 2019.
Central Falls Public Schools had the lowest overall RICAS scores, with only 7.7% of students proficient in English language arts and fewer than 5% proficient in math.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove Warwick from the list of eligible districts, after state officials corrected their original announcement.