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  • Who has the overall discipline authority in schools?

    The school committee, which generally consists of residents of a city or town, sets the standards for conduct in the schools and for disciplinary actions. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-2-9 (a), -2-5 (2011).

    Each school committee must enforce a student discipline code. Each student and his or her parent, guardian, or custodian must sign a statement confirming that they have received a copy of the student discipline code for their respective school district. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-21 (2011).


  • What type of discipline is permitted?

     If a student violates a student code of conduct, he or she may be removed from school.

    A student could be:

    • removed to an alternative educational setting;
    • removed to another school; or
    • removed from school/suspended.

     If a student with disabilities is removed for more than ten (10) days, he or she must receive:

    • continued educational services so that he or she can participate in the general education curriculum, although in another setting and progress toward meeting the goals set out in his or her individual education program (“IEP”);
    • a behavioral assessment;
    • behavioral intervention services so that the conduct does not happen again;
    • a behavioral intervention plan; and
    • a determination regarding whether the conduct relates to his or her disability or the failure to implement his or her IEP.
  • What rights do students have related to discipline removals?

    If a student will be removed for less than ten (10) consecutive school days, he or she must be given:

    • oral or written notice of the charges against him or her (and if the student is under 18 years, the notice and reason for suspension must be provided to his or her parents);
    • an explanation of the evidence the authorities have if he or she denies the charges; and
    • the opportunity to present his or her side of the story.

    If possible, the notice and a hearing related to the notice should occur before the student is removed from school. 

    If a student will be removed for more than ten (10) consecutive school days, he or she must be given:

    • a clearly written statement of the reason for the suspension or long term removal;*
    • an opportunity for a formal public or private hearing;*
    • if a hearing is requested, prompt notice of the time and place of the hearing, with reasonable time for preparation;*
    • the opportunity to be represented by an attorney;*
    • the right to cross examine witnesses and to present witnesses on his or her behalf at the hearing;
    • a complete and accurate record of the hearing including all exhibits;
    • a written decision rendered within a reasonable time, based exclusively on the record detailing the reasons and factual basis for the decision; and
    • a copy of the decision; if the decision is appealed, a copy of the decision must also be sent to the RI Commissioner of Education.
    • * If the student is under eighteen (18) years, these procedures apply to the parent(s) or guardian.

    Students with disabilities have additional rights, which are discussed above under “What type of discipline is permitted?”

    Helpful website link

    Rhode Island Discipline Procedures and Requirements For All Students under IDEA 2004 and RI Legislation (July 2005), available at



  • What does “zero tolerance” mean?

    Zero tolerance refers to immediate disciplinary action for conduct involving weapons, violence and illegal drugs in schools. Any student in possession of a weapon or involved in an aggravated assault will be suspended immediately in accordance with their procedural rights. Such suspension could be long term. 08-010-013 R.I. Code R. § 3.28.



  • Is there a state policy on bullying?

    Yes. Each school district must adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying at school. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-26(b) (2011).

    • Harassment, intimidation or bullying means “an intentional written, electronic, verbal or physical act or threat of a physical act that, under the totality of circumstances: (i) A reasonable person should know will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person, or placing a student in reasonable fear of damage to his or her property; or (ii) Is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for a student.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-21-26(a)(2) (2011).


    Helpful website link

    A Guide to Preventing Bullying, Teen Dating Violence, and Sexual Violence in Rhode Island Schools:


  • Is there a state policy on hazing?

    Yes. Hazing is a crime and a person convicted of hazing can be fined up to $500 or imprisoned for not less than thirty (30) days nor more than one year, or both. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-21-1(a) (2011).


    Hazing means “any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. This conduct shall include, without limitation, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug, or other substance, or any brutal treatment or forced physical activity that is likely to affect the physical health or safety of the student adversely or any other person or that subjects the student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-21-1(b) (2011).



  • Who is considered an ELL?

    An ELL, or English Language Learner, is a student: (1) whose first language is not English or who speaks a variety of English, (2) who is now learning English, but (3) who has not yet attained enough proficiency in English to be instructed in English only. 08-01-018 R.I. Code R. § L-4-2.

  • What assessment tests are used for ELL?



    Initial Assessment for Program Placement

    The WIDA*-ACCESS Placement Test or screener will be used to measure a student’s ability to understand, speak, and read English at a level appropriate to the student’s age and grade placement. In some instances, a reading assessment in the first language of the student will be given to all ELLs regardless of their English proficiency. 08-01-018 R.I. Code R. § L-4-4.

    Annual assessment of student progress

    ELLs will be evaluated at least once a year through the state’s English-language proficiency test, ACCESS for English Language Learners. If a student does not progress appropriately within the ELL program, other assessment procedures will be used to determine the reason for the lack of progress. Appropriate instructional interventions will be provided. An ELL will not be retained solely on the basis of his or her English-language proficiency status. 08-01-018 R.I. Code R. § L-4-14.

    Exit Assessment

    A student will be eligible to leave an ELL program when she or he has met all required exit criteria outlined in English Language Instructional Program Exit Criteria.**

    Written notification of the proposed exit decision will be sent to the parent along with a description of the reason for the exit and a description of the student’s new program. Notification will be provided in English and, when possible, in the home/native language of the parent.

    Parents will be informed of their right to appeal a decision to exit their child from the school’s ELL program. 08-01-018 R.I. Code R. § L-4-16.

    *Rhode Island is a member of the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Consortium, which is a consortium of 20 states that seeks to set high standards and equitable educational opportunities for ELLs.

    **English Language Instructional Program Exit Criteria is available online at:


  • What are the procedures for the test?

    There are a number of steps that must be taken prior to the placement of a student in an ELL program. These steps, which are detailed in the April 2011 Memo referenced below, may include a home language survey, a family interview, an English language proficiency test, and a native language proficiency test (when possible). Parents are provided detailed information regarding any program that their child could be placed in and can reject the placement of their child in a specialized ESL or Bilingual Education program.

    Helpful website link

    April 2011 Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Memo – Guidance concerning identification and enrollment procedures for ELLS is available online at:

  • What instructional programs are available for ELLs?

    School districts can use one or more of the following six methods of instruction, or certain of their components, to provide the most appropriate program for each ELL. 08-01-018 R.I. Code R. § L-4-10; §§ L-4-17 to 4-22.



    Bilingual Education

    This method of instruction provides literacy and area of study instruction in a student’s native language and English as a Second Language instruction at all proficiency levels. Teachers must meet state certification requirements, be highly qualified in the area of study, and demonstrate proficiency in both English and the other language used in instruction.

    Collaborative ESL Instruction

    This method of instruction provides ELLs with ESL instruction taught by a certified and/or endorsed ESL teacher; instruction in the area of study is provided through the school’s general education program. The certified and/or endorsed ESL teacher works closely with the general-education teachers to provide instruction to ELLs.

    English as a Second Language

    This method of instruction develops an ELL’s social, instructional, and academic proficiency in English to prepare him or her to succeed in the school’s general education program. The core curriculum is to include English-language instruction in listening, speaking, reading, and writing that meets applicable state requirements. Teachers must meet RI certification and/or endorsement requirements for ESL instruction.


    Newcomer Instruction

    This method of instruction is meant to educate students who have recently immigrated to the United States who have had little or no formal schooling. This method tries to create an academic environment that addresses gaps in the newcomer’s schooling, including intensive instruction in English literacy and numeracy. Teachers must meet ESL state certification requirements and/or area of study instruction for ELLs and be highly qualified.

    Sheltered Content Instruction

    This method of instruction involves making core academic courses understandable for ELLs and helps ELLs to become competent in the use of academic English. Teachers must: (1) meet appropriate state-certification requirements; (2) be highly qualified in the area of study; and (3) be trained in ESL methods and techniques.

    Two-Way/Dual Language

    This method of instruction promotes a student’s full proficiency in all aspects of English and another language. These programs instruct ELLs using both English and a target language, usually dividing the day or week by language of instruction. Two-way bilingual programs teach students who are learning to speak English alongside students who are native English-speakers who are learning to speak the target language. Teachers must meet appropriate state certification requirements and be highly qualified in the area of study.


  • What are the criteria for parent involvement?

    Parents will be informed of the ways in which they can become involved in the education of their children, not only in ELL programs, but also in other school programs, services, and activities. Parents will be able to provide input when the school district considers improvements to ELL programs and other school programs that involve ELLs. Parents will be given information regarding ELL performance on state assessments and ELL graduation rates. In some cases, parents may have the opportunity to join a “School Improvement Team.”

    • Parents will be informed that their child does not have to participate in ELL programs and can remove their child from an ELL program. In those cases, however, an ELL’s English proficiency must still be assessed annually.
    • If a family chooses not to participate in the ELL identification, assessment and placement process, the student will not be penalized. Additional outreach and attention will be given to the family to educate them about the process and to encourage participation. 08-01-018 R.I. Code R. §§ L-4-21, -4-22.

    Helpful website links

    ELL website:

    Office of Instruction, Assessment and Curriculum:

    Regulations Governing the Education of English Language Learners:


  • Does the state have any state policy on ability grouping?

    Resources and support are provided for students who are or need:

    • Special Education (this category relates to children who have/are: autism, emotional-behavior challenges, blind & visual impairments, deaf & hard of hearing, learning disabilities & response to intervention, speech & language disabilities, traumatic brain injury, severe and profound developmental disabilities, and attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder);
    • Disadvantaged, homeless, neglected, delinquent or at-risk;
    • Gifted and talented;
    •  ELL; or
    • Early childhood special education.


    Helpful website link

    Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports:

  • Does the state guarantee students access to any specific classes or quality of classes (e.g., college prep)?

    Yes. Students must receive a comprehensive program of study from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 that will prepare them for post-secondary education or productive employment. A set of curriculum documents will specify the educational standards, instructional practices, materials, program, texts and assessments, and grading practices that are aimed at helping students become globally aware and internationally competitive. 08-010-025 R.I. Code R. § G-13-1.1.

    Each student must be provided with a comprehensive program of study in English language arts, mathematics, social studies, the sciences, visual arts & design and the performing arts, engineering and technology, comprehensive health, and world languages from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. This program of study must integrate literacy (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), applied learning, and the use of information and communication technology in all areas of study. Reading integration must include vocabulary development, instruction in initial understanding, analysis and interpretation of content-area text, reading strategies, and the assurance that there is a breadth of text covered in each area of study. The integration of writing and oral communication must include the reading-writing connection. 08-010-025 R.I. Code R. § G-13-1.3; §§ G-13-1.3.1 to 1.3.11.

    The program of study will emphasize the following:

    • For Grades PK-4, building student fluency and conceptual understanding in literacy and numeracy;
    • For Grades 5-8, integrating content-based coursework while attending to content-based literacy and numeracy development; and
    • For Grades 9-12, focus on courses within and across areas of study that are in predictable sequences to ensure that all students have access to all information necessary to become proficient. Career-and-technical education programs will also be offered. Students should have coursework and experiences needed to move through high school until graduation and needed to succeed in postsecondary education and careers.

    Curriculum and programming will be developed for: (a) ELLs; (b) students with disabilities; (c) students at risk for not completing their education; and (d) students in need of advanced academic opportunities.

  • Does the state require schools to have gifted and talented programs?

    Schools are not required to have gifted and talented programs. If a school offers such programs, the programs must be approved by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 16-42-1(a), 42-3, -42-1-1, -42.2-1. When a program is developed, it should serve students who have unique talents and/or superior capabilities in areas such as specific academic aptitude, creative thinking, intelligence, visual, performing and industrial arts, and leadership. R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-42-1(b).


    At least three of the following identification devices must be used to select students for a proposed gifted and talent program:

    1. Creativity tests;
    2. Case studies of students;
    3. Nominations from a teacher, peer, parent, school psychologist, guidance counselor, principal, or self-nomination;
    4. Judgments by experts;
    5. Interview of student;
    6. Behavioral characteristics/personality inventory rated by several individuals;
    7. Autobiography;
    8. Intelligence tests;
    9. Aptitude tests;
    10. Achievement tests; and
    11. Any other identification devices approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

    08-020-005 R.I. Code R. § I.G.

    Of the three identification devices selected, one must consider data about the student’s classroom performance, which must be collected from the appropriate classroom teacher. 08-020-005 R.I. Code R. § I.G.


    Helpful website link

    Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports – Student Learning Beyond Grade Level:

  • What Are Common Core Standards?

    Common Core State Standards (“Standards”) refers to the knowledge and skills students should have in their K-12 education experiences so that they can graduate from high school and succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The Standards were developed collaboratively by 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia and coordinated by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. Input was provided by teachers, school administrators and education experts. These Standards are available for Mathematics, K-12 and English Language Arts (Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening), K-12 including Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, 6-12.

    RI Board of Regents adopted Standards on July 1, 2010. Transition to these Standards will occur over several years and are expected to be fully implemented by the 2013-2014 school year.


    Helpful website links

    • Office of Instruction, Assessment and Curriculum – Common Core Standards:

    • FAQs:

  • What Are The Requirements To Graduate From High School?

     For the graduatingn class of 2012, graduation requirements will be as follows:

    • Successful completion of at least 20 courses (4 English, 4 math, 3 science, 3 social studies, and 6 others, including physical education, health, arts, and technology);
    • Successful completion of 2 performance-based diploma assessments;
    • Achievement of at least partial proficiency in reading and math on state assessments or alternative; and
    • Enrollment in a school district that is Diploma System Approved.

    Starting with the graduating class of 2014, graduation requirements will be as follows:

    • Successful completion of at least 20 courses (4 English, 4 math, 3 science, 3 social studies, and 6 others, including physical education, health, arts, and technology);
    • Successful completion of 2 performance-based diploma assessments; and
    • Achievement of at least partial proficiency on reading and math state assessment.

    Helpful website links

    • August 2011 Letters from Commissioner to Families regarding changes in graduation requirements:

    • Rhode Island High School Graduation Requirements: 2003 – 2011

  • Resources For Parents

    Rhode Island Department of Education

    255 Westminster Street

    Providence, RI 02903




    Website description of Mission: The Parent Support Network is an organization of families supporting families with children, youth, and young adults who experience or are at risk for serious behavioral, emotional, and/or mental health challenges. PSN seeks to strengthen and preserve families and reduce family isolation by promoting positive mental health and well-being, and building a culturally and linguistically competent system of care, through advocacy, education, training, and increased public awareness.



    Website description of Mission: Through RIAGE we hope to provide a forum for the development of public awareness of the needs of the gifted and talented; to facilitate an interchange of information on the subject of the gifted and talented; to develop cooperation with community and professional organizations; and to provide an organized voice for parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and others concerned about the unmet needs of gifted and talented students.



    Website description of Mission: The mission of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education is to provide an excellent, efficient, accessible and affordable system of higher education designed to improve the overall educational attainment of Rhode Islanders and thereby enrich the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the state, its residents, and its communities.



    Website description of Mission: Our mission is to assist individuals, parents, families and children to achieve their goals for health, educational, and socio-economic well being by providing information, education, training, support and advocacy for person/family centered care and systems change.



    Website description of Mission: Rhode Island schools will provide students with a challenging and differentiated curriculum and instruction which nurtures talents, interests and abilities.