PORTSMOUTH, R.I. \u2014 The following op-ed on school reform was submitted verbatim from Rep. Liana Cassar (D-dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) and Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).\nWith hard work, Rhode Island can transform public education\nBy Rep. Liana Cassar and Rep. Terri Cortvriend\nA good education should be a right for Rhode Island\u2019s children.\nAnd while our state has a checkered record of delivering on this responsibility, we firmly believe that Rhode Island has what it takes to identify the solutions we need.\nWe joined the nearly 400 Rhode Islanders \u2014 leaders, educators, parents, students and more \u2014who participated in the early December event organized by the Rhode Island Foundation to help brainstorm strategies to create systemic change in our educational system, and we were deeply impressed by the engagement, knowledge and open-mindedness of all in the lively conversations of the day.\nThis productive event showed that our state has a population of parents and students who want to be involved in the conversation with the educators and\u00a0administrators to assure that the needs of all students are met with high-quality educational opportunities and the appropriate social-emotional support to thrive.\nWe have sent our children to Rhode Island public schools. We are a former school committee member and a public health professional who came to this event with experience, but left with new insight and hope about the capacity to turn our educational system into one that is truly excellent.\nIt cemented our belief that Rhode Island would benefit from models of education where students lend their voices in shaping their own education. Integrating parent and student input and engagement would provide critical ownership and would help ensure that the needs of students and families are truly being met. Diversification of our educator population is needed, to include men, people of color, and individuals who need flexible work arrangements. Students need cultural awareness, and will benefit from having teachers who have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.\nWe must be willing to take an honest look at real data, and stop relying on and perpetuating truisms about specific communities. All districts can and should improve, need adequate funding to do so, and need transformational leaders. We need to address alternate pathways to allow students to demonstrate proficiency and to take accountability for their education. We all can see\u00a0 that one size does not fit all \u2013 not all districts, nor all schools or students. Schools need flexibility to serve the needs of their own students.\nWe must acknowledge the real challenges that arise from conflicting interests of unions and school districts, but refuse to consider it an insurmountable challenge to school improvement. We have many\u00a0talented educators who want to be effective. We can identify ways to attract and develop high-quality educators and provide them with further training so they can help institute the innovation needed to make our schools places students want to be and where they can thrive.\nWe both left the forum with new energy to work collaboratively with students, parents, teachers, administrators and community and state leaders to transform our schools. We know we can do this. Our neighbor Massachusetts once had similar struggles, and now provides both hope and a model of excellence for us to follow.\nWe will continue to advocate to improve the state of education in Rhode Island because we understand that this is what\u2019s right for the future of our children\u2019s health, economic success and their lives, which will in turn make for a stronger future for our state.\nRep. Liana Cassar and Rep. Terri Cortvriend are Democrats serving their first term in the General Assembly representing District 66 in Barrington and East Providence and District 72 in Portsmouth and Middletown, respectively.