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A Survey of State Initiatives

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Although no emergency teaching certificates have been issued in mathematics and science by the Rhode Island department of education, several broader efforts are underway to improve the state's system of education.

The Joint Committee on School and College Articulation, a study group of educators appointed by the state commissioner of education, has developed a set of recommendations for upgrading graduation requirements for high-school students and strengthening relationships between secondary and postsecondary schools.

The recommendations, which have been presented to the state board of regents for approval, would require students to have 18 credits in order to graduate. College-bound students, however, beginning with 9th graders during the 1984-85 school year, would be required to take four credits in English, three in math, two in lab sciences, two in a foreign language, two in social science and history, one-half credit in the arts and one-half credit in "computer literacy," according to Lorraine Webber, spokesman for the department of education.

Most school districts now require 20 credits for graduation and most of the recommended courses are offered, if not required, in the high schools.

The state department of education is also working with the Governor's office to implement Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy's $8-million computer initiative, which was announced last October.

Under that program, $4 million will go to elementary and secondary schools to assist in the purchase of computer equipment and the training of teachers. The other half will go to state colleges and universities, according to J. Charles Fogarty Jr., the Governor's policy associate for education and economic development.

Mr. Fogarty said no school will receive computer equipment until teachers have at least received some computer training and are familiar with the type of computer to be used in the school. He said teacher-training programs are being coordinated through the state's colleges and universities.

The program is voluntary, but all school districts are expected to participate. The money will be distributed through the state-aid formula; over a two-year period, school districts will have to contribute 40 percent of the cost of the computer equipment. That amount will eventually be reduced to 20 percent because the state will reimburse school districts two years later through state aid.

Mr. Fogarty said the state is considering establishment of "a software clearinghouse" that would purchase instructional software and provide it to the schools at reduced prices. The program is being financed through bond sales by the Public Building Authority.

The Strategic Development Commission, formed last year by Governor Garrahy to look at the state's economy and to develop a blueprint for the future, is scheduled to present its report in the fall, according to Mr. Fogarty. He said that the document will provide the most detailed analysis ever undertaken of Rhode Island's economy and will address the role of the state's education system in improving its competitive position.

At the direction of the state legislature, the department of education is also studying the feasibility of establishing a high school for students gifted in science and mathematics, according to Ms. Webber. The department will report to the legislature in January, she said.

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