Director of Latino Policy Institute Addresses Need for Education Reform

The Latino population in Rhode Island has increased by more than 40 percent since 2010, according to a report by the Latino Policy Institute @ RWU.

Likewise, the demographics in Rhode Island public education have changed dramatically. According to the Latino Policy Institute (LPI) Director Anna Cano-Morales ’99, “Three out of every four students in the Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls school systems are Latino. But while the demographics have completely shifted, education policies and priorities have not fully adjusted,” she said.

As part of RIC’s Dialogue on Diversity Lecture Series, Cano-Morales will discuss the challenges Rhode Island urban schools face in educating Latino students. Her talk, titled “Education Communities: Strength in Partnerships,” will be held on Wednesday, March 19, 12:30-2 p.m. in Gaige Hall 100. This event is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island College Feinstein School of Education and Human Development and is free and open to the public.

Cano-Morales said that one of the critical issues the state must address is the low achievement scores among Latino students. “Findings from the LPI report – a report titled “Latino Student Achievement in R.I.: Addressing Equity Challenges and the ELL Crisis” – shows that the Latino-White achievement gaps in Rhode Island are among some of the worst in the country,” she remarked.

“Moreover, English Language Learners (ELLs) in Rhode Island – 75 percent of whom are Latino – are among some of the lowest performing ELLs in the nation. On eighth-grade mathematics achievement, for example, ELLs in Rhode Island are dead last among ELLs across states,” she said.

In her talk, Cano-Morales will discuss the LPI report’s recommendations, which include a system-wide reform of ELL programming and an increase in the percentage of Latino teachers and principals serving students in the state. The report also suggests professional development initiatives built on the success of local urban schools with Latino and ELL populations.

“There are some schools in the state that are producing commendable results with urban Latino and ELL populations,” said Cano-Morales. “It would be advantageous to build on the excellence that these schools are exhibiting and to share best practices.”

Cano-Morales, a 1999 M.S.W. graduate of Rhode Island College and chair of the Central Falls School Board of Trustees, intends to cite, as an exemplary model, the developing partnership between Central Falls and Rhode Island College. Known as the Central Falls/Rhode Island College Innovation Lab, this partnership is designed to research, develop and pilot new models of urban education and community development for state and national replication. Cano-Morales said, “This partnership puts corrective strategies in motion real-time by not only impacting Latino students but by influencing the entire system of education.”

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo said, “Rhode Island College’s partnership with Central Falls Public Schools is succeeding because its approach is broad-based and inclusive. Together, we are not just educating students; we are supporting families and community.”