Advanced course network to offer Warwick students new opportunities

“As part of consolidation we made a promise to the community that the quality of education would improve and we are going to fulfill that promise,” Steven Ruscito, director of secondary education, said last week. “Participating in the Advanced Coursework Network is one way we do that.”

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is currently accepting proposals from districts throughout the state for the Advanced Coursework Network, a new initiative for the fall of 2016 that would allow students to take advanced level, credit-bearing courses at another school when not offered at their own. These courses, which could include career preparation Advanced Placement (AP) and higher-level courses, would be offered at no charge to a student or their families, although families would be responsible for any and all transportation. RIDE has set aside nearly $900,000 for the project.

These after-school courses, taken outside of the regular school day, will be taken in a traditional classroom, online or a combination of the two.

Schools can join the network as providers, offering courses to the other participants in the network, or as members, whose students can enroll in the other available courses through the network.

Governor Gina Raimondo said the network is another “key step” in re-imagining schools and providing students with more opportunities.

“Now, more than ever, we know that Rhode Islanders need to obtain some postsecondary education in order to get a good job,” she said in a press release. “Through participation in challenging coursework, more of our high school graduates will be able to make it in Rhode Island.”

“The network will draw on expertise across our entire state, and we expect to receive many strong proposals for high-quality courses that will be available to many of our students,” Barbara Cottam, chair of the Board of Education said.

Daniel McConaghy, chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, believes the network will help the state to close the “opportunity gap,” providing access to challenging and upper level courses that would have previously been unavailable to some students.

The network would be able to supplement those courses districts can’t run on their own due to limited resources, too few staff, improper equipment or not enough interested or qualified students.

Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said, “Enriching experiences through advanced coursework helps students get a head start on postsecondary success, master the skills required of a lifelong learner, and be prepared for jobs in sectors critical to the future prosperity of Rhode Island.”

RIDE is entertaining proposals from schools across the state for courses they would be able to offer the network. Wagner will award grants for the development of the chosen advanced courses for the network.

Ruscito said Warwick would most definitely be participating in the Advanced Coursework Network not just as a member, but also as a provider.

This January secondary educators throughout the district will be surveyed about their interest and qualifications in participating as instructors and what sort of courses Warwick would be able to offer. Already Ruscito thinks two major contributions would be the biotech program that’s currently run at Vets and will move to Pilgrim with the consolidation, as well as the TV/Video production courses already at Pilgrim.

“This program is going to bring so many new things to Warwick students and expand on programs, like dual enrollment, that we run presently,” Ruscito said. “Students won’t have to miss out on courses because there aren’t enough students for a class, and they will have many more educational opportunities.”

Not only will the network expand the courses and curriculum offered to Warwick’s secondary students, but they will also be able to experience a different “modality of learning.”

Ruscito said most students are comfortable with the traditional school day, but in having to take courses online or in a blended learning atmosphere students will be able to develop their virtual learning skills. As schools, universities and careers rely more and more on technology, virtual learning skills will be essential and Warwick’s participation in the network will give students a “leg up.”

The Advanced Coursework Network will launch at the beginning of next year, at the same time Warwick will be in the process of consolidation, with students and teachers being moved around to new schools. Despite this, Ruscito plans on moving forward and joining the network at the same time.

“We are going to put a lot in front of our students as part of consolidation and I am confident we are going to execute them all well,” Ruscito said. “The kids deserve this. They deserve all we can deliver and the best of what we have to offer.”

He noted that consolidation came with promises of “enhancements in education” and those opportunities should be available as soon as possible.

“We shouldn’t put off joining just because we also happen to be consolidating. I don’t want another group of students to graduate without these programs at least available,” Ruscito said. “Students and their families can look back and say as painful as certain aspects of consolidation were, look at all we have now. Look at the benefit to the city’s children. We need to take advantage of this program.”

For more information about the Advanced Coursework Network, visit


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