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4/24/2018 With students’ help, Ranglin-Vassell seeks better high school science labs
STATE HOUSE – Saying proper science facilities are critical to preparing students for 21st-century careers, Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell is sponsoring legislation requiring every public high school in Rhode Island to have a functioning science laboratory.

The bill (2018-H 7974), which has a hearing before the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee tomorrow, was the idea of students at the E-Cubed Academy, some of whom will be testifying for it at the hearing. Representative Ranglin-Vassell is a teacher there.

The students, taught by E-Cubed history teacher John Healy, developed the idea and began advocating for it as part of their involvement in Generation Citizen, which inspires civic participation through a proven state standards-aligned action civics class that gives students the opportunity to experience real-world democracy.

“It’s time to stand up and make a difference. It’s time to stand up for students who will come years after we are no longer in school. It’s time to prepare our students for the 21st century,” said E-Cubed Senior Samiya Baez, one of the students advocating for the measure.

Rhode Island lags behind national averages in public school students’ access to science labs, and ranks last in New England in science scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The problem is at least in part linked to the aging and crumbling status of the state’s schools, which are the subject of a proposal to spend $500 million over a decade to improve.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell is hopeful that science labs will be a high priority in that proposal, because so many high schools have labs that are outdated, unsafe and nonfunctional, and don’t have enough labs to serve their student population.  

“As we consider infrastructure support for school building across the state, we must be intentional in making sure that our students remain competitive and equipped to respond to 21st-century expectations. Many of the best jobs today require strength in the STEM fields, but our schools don’t have the basic equipment to give students the solid science foundation they need to compete for them. This proposal came from students, because they know they need more than they are getting from the deficient science facilities they have today,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). “I am extremely proud of these students’ advocacy and agency, and the compassion that they show for students all over our state who may not have adequate resources to compete in the sciences.”

E-Cubed Academy Principal Regina Winfield said the students’ work to seek better science labs is an example of the school’s efforts to encourage students to speak up for change.

“I am encouraged that our students are using their voice to call attention to the issue of lack of adequate resources in Rhode Island schools. Our students are simply asking for a 21st-century education to equip them to compete in the global economy,” said Winfield. “Our work with students and Generation Citizen has ranged from a mediation program that promotes communication over conflict to a wider scope where students now are able now to look at their community and talk about change that helps them alter the trajectory of their lives and the expectations of others. All of our student voice opportunities aligns with the vision and mission of the school.” 

The legislation’s hearing before the Health, Education and Welfare Committee is scheduled tomorrow, Wednesday, April 25, at conclusion of the House session (around 5 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923