Archive for May, 2006

Lee posted this as a comment, but I thought it deserved its own thread:

I am interested in this idea of K-8th schools. Donnie Evans has mentioned this a few times and it seems to be in these proposals. Are there pedagogic reasons for this idea which make sense in our community?- Lee

Two comments from the moderator, then it would be great to see some discussion.

1) At the DeJong forum at Hope, a number of people expressed frustration at being asked in the survey whether then wanted a K-8 school or a more traditional package of K, 1-5 (or 6) and middle/junior high. People felt that they didn't have a basis on which to choose, and were worried that their responses would lead to results they would not want.

2) I'm not knowledgable about this, and so I tried to do some research. K-8 is the "next big thing" in ed. policy. Lots of cities are trying it and lots of reasons are given for why it should be an improvement. Does it actually improve schools? The most authoritative study I could find found no significant improvements in school performance. (Weiss and Kipnis, Reexamining Middle School Effects: A Comparison of Middle Grades Students in Middle Schools and K-8 Schools" American Journal of Education 112. Feb. 2006.)

If the transition to K-8 is going to cost a lot of money, it would be good to know that it's likely to improve things. But maybe there are some experts reading this who can comment? (Of course, you dont' need to be an expert to comment!)


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A very long post, but those of you who are interested in numbers (which will drive much of the planning process) will want to consider this:

At the presentation at Hope high last week, Bill DeJong reported School Department data from 2005, showing 1,644 K-8 (public & private) students living on the East Side (i.e. east of I-95). These numbers were the basis in part of a recommendation to close either King ES or Bishop MS.

The 2000 census for tracts 31-37 (nearly precisely the same area) puts the number of East Side K-8 children at 2,256 The difference is 612 children, or 27%!

Why this discrepancy? One possibility is that the School Dept. numbers undercount children. Census numbers are never perfect, but this gap is too large for Census miscounts to be the reason. ESPEC members are trying to get at the root of this, and Mr. DeJong has been very forthcoming with data, for which we are grateful. We will update you on this when we have more information.

But if the numbers ARE right, where did the children go? Are birth rates low among East Siders? Is the east side population aging? Are rising home prices keeping out younger families? Some combination of the above? Could another cause be the emigration out of the city of parents seeking decent public schools? We certainly know anecdotally that this is happening.

Here is a clue as to what might be going on, again assuming the School Dept. numbers are right. Based on the School Dept. figures, the number of K-8 children enrolled in private schools went from 1,131 to 985, a 13% change. Public school enrollment by East Siders went from 1,125 to 659, a drop of 41% in five years! Thus, roughly three-quarters of the total loss came from public school enrollments. These 446 students are enough to fill a medium-sized school like Vartan Gregorian or Esek Hopkins.

Still assuming the accuracy of the School Dept. numbers, low levels of public school enrollment on the East Side are clearly neither permanent nor inevitable; they were once much higher and could be again. Closing schools in response to declining enrollments confuses cause and effect in this case. Enrollments decline when families leave the city in response to poor public school quality, or the perception of poor quality.

We could keep on closing schools until only those who cannot afford to leave are left, but we shouldn't. One value of public education is that people from different backgrounds learn about the world together, and learn about each other in the process. It also means the fate of the best-off is connected in obvious ways with the fate of the less-fortunate. The withdrawal of so many East Side children from the public schools fosters a 2-class educational system that is harmful to the fabric of our society.

The solution is to create and promote good-quality public schools to which all parents wish to send their children. In a city that has the vision and drive to rebuild itself into the jewel that Providence has become, this can be done, and it should be done.

The data tables can be found on at www.EastSideEd.org under "Dejong numbers vs. Census numbers".

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Blog Trivia- RSS for comments

I appear to have succesfully added an RSS feed for the comments as well as the posts. (Right hand side-bar at the bottom). They're not organized by category (yet?) but it works.

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Public Schools Forum Tonight

Harlan Rich forwarded this notice:

"Providence Schools- How are they doing?"

Ms. Mary McClure Board President, Providence School Board and Ms. Lisa Blais, Research Analyst, The Education Partnership will discuss current issues in school reform in regard to Providence schools, including teacher contracts, funding, state aid, and the role of the school committee.

Tuesday, May 30, 7:30 P.M. at 38 Keene Street, Providence Followed by a question-and answer session OPEN TO THE PUBLIC— Refreshments will be served

This forum is sponsored by the League of Women Voters.  For those of you who don't know the Education Partnership, it's a group whose membership list is businesses. They've just released a report highly critical of teacher contracts. They are on the web at http://www.edpartnership.org/ 

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Blog Trivia-Comment Moderation

Some people have noticed that their comments did not post immediately. This is because there is a feature that allows comments to be viewed by the blog administrator before posting. I turned it on when the very first posts to the blog (within the first hour) were spam. I check my email very frequently, so it's not likely to slow things down very much.
If the spam stops, I will turn moderation off. I will also assure you that I have posted every comment that is related to ESPEC, regardless of whether I agree with the poster. I will continue to do that. This is a place for the free exchange of ideas about public education. As long as the post is relevant, and avoids profanity, libel and personal attacks, I'll continue to publish anything you send.

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This has been mentioned, so I thought I should post a link. The School Board commissioned Darrell West at Brown to do a survey of private school parents in 2001. You can read the entire survey at


The most interesting finding was that 68% said they would consider sending their children to public schools. Only 20% said they would not consider it. 58% of those who would consider it named advanced academics as the most important factor. There were some interesting differences along racial lines. There's a lot of info about where people send their kids. It's pretty readable and has no heavy-duty statistics.

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There will be an open house and student exposition at Nathan Bishop on the evening of June 7th from 6-8pm. We have been told by the principal that this event is open to the public. Since Bishop has been closed for the coming school year, these students face a potentially difficult transition as they are divided up and sent to other schools next year. We encourage you to show support for these children, and their teachers as well.

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