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Archive for the ‘Rhode Island Education’ Category

Our Children, Our City is a project of the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet. Our Children, Our City is looking to raise the voices of families, communities, and organizations as they develop an agenda for education based on a common vision for the success of all children in Providence. This summer, local leaders will be holding community conversations to solicit feedback on public education in Providence — and the recommendations will be presented to the current and future leaders of Providence. One of these will be held on the East Side on July 2nd. Here are the details:

Wednesday, July 2

5:00–7:30pm (dinner from 5:00 to 5:30)

■ Everett Company Stage School

■ 9 Duncan Avenue, Providence RI 02906

Childcare and dinner provided. Spanish- and English-speaking facilitators will be present.

For more on the Children and Youth Cabinet, go to: http://www.cycprovidence.org/about

See the attached flyer for more information:

MountHope_2014-7-2

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We’ve been contacted by a parent who had a number of questions about the academic programs at Nathan Bishop.

We’ve heard about the “word on the street”, and this post is intended to clarify, to the best of our ability, the state of academics at Nathan Bishop. Ultimately, we would strongly advocate that parents come to the building, talk to the Principal, Guidance staff, and teachers, and form their own opinions.

Nathan Bishop just graduated its first full three year class of students since reopening. To say this was a pioneering group of students is an understatement. They entered a building that had just been extensively remodeled, with a teaching and support staff that was only 33% hired, and into a program that had not existed several months earlier. Readers of this blog will note that extensive administrative and community involvement went into formulating what the “new” Nathan Bishop would be. Again, if there are questions, talk to the parents of recent graduates… Most everyone left the building on “promotion day” with wide smiles on their faces.

Providence Public Schools at this time continues to only designate Nathanael Greene as having an “Advanced Academic Program”. For years, this was the best public middle school option for parents with motivated, academically talented children. There are 104 seats per year, and your child is either “all in” or “all out” of the advanced core classrooms.  Over the years discussions were held at the School Department about expanding the Advanced Academic programming to other middle schools, but entropy prevailed.

The opportunity to re-open Nathan Bishop allowed the planners of the academic programming to come up with an “a la carte” advanced programming concept. Unlike Nathanael Greene, your child might be advanced in math and average in English, and would participate in classes geared to their academic level.

There never was “tracking” at Nathan Bishop (except for a separate Math track that parallels the Math program at Nathanael Greene (7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry)). Instead, the school administrators and guidance counselors made an effort to group students by ability, such that the teachers could differentiate instruction between the stronger and weaker students. Core concepts were taught, and enriched material or advanced goals were provided to the kids that could benefit from them. This coming year, another option for an enriched core math program is being discussed, which won’t shortchange kids by jumping ahead too quickly.

Over the past two years more and more high performing kids have been coming into the school. The administrators and faculty at Bishop see this as an opportunity to expand advanced level instruction to a larger group of students. Their goal is to meet the school department standards and mandates, and then to supplement and exceed them for appropriate students.

Nathan Bishop benefits from the involvement of a number of community organizations, including the Gamm Theater, and PASA, the Providence After School Alliance. Dedicated teachers have organized theatrical presentations (including Shakespeare), talent shows, and a Science Olympiad team. In fact, the Nathan Bishop team placed 2nd in the state-wide Science Olympiad 2 years ago, and 4th this past year… not bad for a school new to the competition!

And don’t forget the beauty of having this dedicated faculty in your own neighborhood school. While many of our children attended Nathanael Greene, and had great experiences, there was something wonderful about our kids at Bishop being able to walk or ride their bikes to school, and develop a large cadre of friends in the neighborhood, with whom they could spontaneously get together with after school, rather than having to rely on “play dates” to get back and forth across town. The value is outstanding. You have paid for it. What is private school tuition this year? $26K? More?

Every school has a few “warts”, and Bishop is no exception. The strength of any public school comes from a principal, faculty, parents, and students that are strong supporters  of the academic mission, the student body, and the school culture. Nathan Bishop has this, and will benefit from further investment by East Side parents.

Many of the ESPEC steering committee members have had, have, or will have students in the building. We’re happy to answer any questions we can, but feel that the best information will come from taking a tour of the building and talking to the Principal and other faculty members. You can call the school about a tour, or attend the Open House in the Fall (see links below). You have to take that first step though. Many of your neighbors have, and with few exceptions, were happy they did.

A few pertinent links:

http://www.nathanbishoppto.org/

http://providenceschools.org/middle-schools/bishop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nzrIBjDidI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xHKrxTgJVE

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Read an article last week about hiring of teachers this coming year in Providence. The details can be found at the link below:

Existing teachers to get first shot under hiring plan on Page A6 of Thursday, February 02, 2012 issue of The Providence Journal

Because our PTU contract contains a no lay-off clause, interim Supt. Lusi and PTU President Steve Smith devised a plan “to give inside candidates the first shot at job openings”. We had raised some concerns about this last October:

https://espec.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/it-is-but-it-isnt/

An interview process is in place. “The most senior candidate will be afforded an interview”.

Teachers who haven’t  been hired will be assigned to an existing job using a computer match algorithm. We had heard last year that Principals HAD to rank teachers, even if they did not want them.

The article goes on to state that ONCE interior candidates are hired, any remaining jobs will be opened to applicants from outside the district. That is when the “Criterion-based hiring process” begins. So what happens during the interior candidate interview process? What criteria are used for making hiring decisions involving those teachers??

The CBH process was heavily scripted and regulated.  As originally envisioned, it was to be used for all hiring decisions in Providence schools.  The elements of the revised, and now severely curtailed, CBH process have not yet been released.

This raises some serious concerns about the process used for hiring internal candidates, and more importantly, suggests that it will be nearly impossible for “fresh blood” to come into the system. The article quotes Lusi as saying “Why not look first to our best Providence teachers?”

While there will certainly be some excellent teachers looking for new positions this coming year, why do we suspect that the majority of the teachers who are looking will not be among “the best”?

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I was pleased to hear that Lt. Col. Raoul Archambault, one of the teacher-leaders of the JROTC program at Hope High School, received a “Golden Apple” award this week from RIDE, NBC10, and Hasbro.

Information about the award can be found at the following links:

http://www2.turnto10.com/news/golden_apple/2012/feb/09/1/golden-apple-feb-9-2012-83300-vi-37655/?referer=http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fturnto10.com%2Fvi%2F37655%2F&h=oAQENjU6E&enc=AZPEBqf8nwG9mfCVJ-hcB2KuekTL1YVzCuJEyKYok4tGi8eeIaBwfaM8oOkee5pqQLwpyR9T2D8MZT3VHXTd6unDPI9hErhaSMOWQusjiQdv9A2cETddgaS_BfFWBmcPaYJ2-GnxTjxoIivvtc8Duw1iYbIhmVOhQ5RPcgrj-CMSd95x9XgyBGb5wd_VqRVuePa9vdGHoRqVSp44q5MDeKME0uHy2sQFApL5Oa6J9L7wBf1YWVZSMC6DFA-luJEvjBw&shorturl=http://bit.ly/yxcQh1

and

http://providenceri.com/mayor/the-apple-of-their-students%E2%80%99-eyes

I met Lt. Col. Archambault and some of his students a few weeks ago at the Hope High open house.

I was so impressed with these kids, their achievements, their investment in their school and the JROTC program, as well as the overall school environment. These students took me on a tour of the school, and proudly showed me not only their listings on the school academic honor rolls and the JROTC trophies, but many of the other positive features of Hope High, including the newly renovated (and beautiful) science classrooms. I also met several very engaging teachers.

Overall, I came away very impressed, and hopeful that East Siders could and should consider looking at Hope High School for their high school age children.

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For reasons unclear to us, the Projo often seems to find that pitting one neighborhood against another makes for good news.

The Projo editorial staff came out today in favor of the Achievement First Mayoral Academy Charter application.

The article can be found at the following link:

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/ProJo/LandingPage/LandingPage.aspx?href=VFBKLzIwMTIvMDEvMTU.&pageno=MjI.&entity=QXIwMjIwMA..&view=ZW50aXR5

In the editorial they state “Some in the richer neighborhoods worry that their schools could suffer if some of the city’s education resources go to new charter schools”.

Here is the link to ESPEC’s statement, found on this blog:

https://espec.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/espec-statement-letter-on-the-achievement-first-mayoral-academy-charter-school-application/

We certainly don’t make that assertion anywhere.

And FYI: Who were among the first to oppose the AF application? Parents living in poorer neighborhoods of the city:

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/ProJo/LandingPage/LandingPage.aspx?href=VFBKLzIwMTEvMTIvMDY.&pageno=NQ..&entity=QXIwMDUwMQ..&view=ZW50aXR5

http://www.wecanri.org/

Parents THROUGHOUT the city are concerned that their schools may suffer if some of the city’s education resources go to new charter schools… get it?

And we agree with the Projo editorialists, the bottom line should be increasing educational opportunities for ALL students, in ALL neighborhoods, via addressing the barriers to meaningful change, posted in our letter/blog.

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An article in today’s Providence Journal details how students at Hope High School, organized as Hope United, met with Sodexho to have a fresh salad bar installed in the school cafeteria, the first in the City of Providence.

Details can be found at the following link:

Students lead the charge for healthy eating on Page A1 of Tuesday, January 10, 2012 issue of The Providence Journal

Hopefully, this is just the earliest of many examples of community partners seriously working with students, parents, and other stakeholders to help institute positive changes in our schools.

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East Side Public Education Coalition

                                                                                    January 8, 2012

Board of Regents

Rhode Island Department of Education

255 Westminster Street

Providence, RI 02903

To Whom It May Concern:

The application submitted by Achievement First to the Rhode Island Department of Education to open two Mayoral Academy charter schools has provided community members from Providence and beyond with an opportunity to participate in a discussion about the programs and structures that will allow all children in public schools to receive the support and challenge they need to succeed in school and life. Both Achievement First’s proposed program and achievements and successes happening now in Providence’s public schools have informed our understanding of what is required to create and sustain such schools and the system that supports them.

We believe we must find ways to do what we know works to improve the public system. Rhode Island public school students trail the nation in measures of academic achievement and face an appalling racial and socioeconomic achievement gap. As we address these challenges, we must find the political will to face barriers to the institution of meaningful changes, which include:

–       a longer school day and school year

–       accessible high quality early childhood education

–       providing wraparound support services

–       community partnerships that allow for expanded learning opportunities and more time for learning

–       high quality curriculum matched to the needs of the learner

–       school-based decision-making by principal, teachers and parents on budget allocation, hiring and personnel management

–       meaningful professional development which meets both national standards and local needs

–       an assistant principal in every school with 400 or more students

We support strategic planning and investments that leverage these strategies for the benefit of as many children as possible.

Given the district’s dwindling finances and stagnant population, the establishment of Achievement First charter schools at the scale proposed by the charter application could have the effect of closing at least one district school and pulling resources away from Providence Schools at the time they are most needed. Given that the district has a high number of schools that struggle to support their students, including those schools identified as Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) schools for which closure is an option, we understand the urgent need for alternatives and choices. However, Providence has chosen to keep these schools open and invest in their staff members, students, and structures in order to improve student achievement. We need to focus on improvements that can be made in the existing public schools, learning from and keeping what works and changing what does not. We are concerned that if RIDE were to approve this charter application, it would divert scarce resources from our existing public schools and decrease the possibility that all children in Providence public schools would have the opportunity to attend high performing schools.

Mayor Taveras and Superintendent Lusi have stated that they wish to learn from Achievement First’s successes in other states to bring better practices to the Providence Public Schools. It is important to note that while there already are numerous “bright lights” in the Providence Schools, as acknowledged in the Education Opportunity Working Group’s November 2011 “Educate Providence” report, the Providence Public School Department (PPSD) does not have a system in place to identify, acknowledge, celebrate, and disseminate best practices already in existence. We contend that PPSD should use its resources to study and disseminate best practices already in our system before bringing in an outside organization to run our schools. Without the habits of sharing knowledge within the district, there’s no clear way for a newly introduced organization to share its practices.
Though Achievement First would present an option that could appeal to a number of PPSD families, the prospect of opening a new school will cause a level of disruption that our district can’t sustain. Choices about the schools offering educational options to the students in our district should align with the mission and vision of the district. However, the district’s vision isn’t at all clear at this time. We believe that the plans from the Mayor’s office and the Superintendent’s office need to be aligned and clarified, with appropriate and meaningful public input, before we make such potentially impactful decisions about introducing new schools into PPSD.

We are concerned about the unacknowledged cost impact that proposed Achievement First schools may pose. When Providence closed several schools last year, a leading rationale was transportation cost reduction. However, because they are not neighborhood schools, the Achievement First charter schools will increase transportation costs significantly due to the need to bring children from four different communities to the schools.

We are also concerned that the Achievement First schools may exacerbate rather than ameliorate the district’s equity issues. For example, an advantage of charter schools is that they have the potential for more flexibility than in-district public schools. Achievement First uses that flexibility to offer a significantly longer school day that allows educators to create a more effective learning environment. However, the length of the Achievement First school day stands in stark contrast to that of the Providence Public Schools’ standard school day. It seems inequitable that if this application were approved, some Providence children would have an 8.50 hour day and 190 -195 day school year, while others would have only a 6.08 hour day and 180 day school year. We want to know how the district can use its resources to pursue expanded and extended learning for all students.

We support choices and welcome innovation in our school district. We are not opposed to charter schools. However, we are not convinced that this is the right choice, and note that because the deadline for prospective charter schools to apply to RIDE is March 1, 2012, it is likely that additional charter applications, such as that of the Meeting Street School, will be submitted that offer both options to Providence students as well as potential threats to the district’s finances. We therefore suggest that the Board of Regents at the very least delay making a decision about the Achievement First application until we have a fuller picture of the charter options for the 2013 school year.

While the individual members of ESPEC hold diverse views, we agree that it is not clear that bringing these particular Achievement First charter schools to Providence at the currently proposed scale is the best decision. We therefore oppose the charter application as it currently stands. We agree with the concerns raised by other community groups about the financial costs, the failure to serve the whole student population, and the loss of public accountability inherent in the Achievement First application. We have observed that the public process to date has been divisive and unhelpful to parents who are genuinely seeking information. We believe strongly that concerned parents and community groups should pull together so that energy currently devoted toward and against Achievement First is instead directed toward identifying the assets of the schools we currently have in Providence and working systematically and swiftly toward their improvement.

As Mayor Taveras and Providence Public Schools administrators implement improvements that improve the learning experience and outcomes of all our children in all our schools, we must manage our scarce resources as wisely as possible both to encourage innovation and to preserve and invest in existing schools. We are aware of how challenging this is, and in that light want to question whether establishing Achievement First Schools in Providence via the Mayoral Academy charter school structure is the best move we can make now for long-run success.

Sincerely,

Jill Davidson

Michael Kenney

Bill Mott

Harlan Rich

Kim Rohm

Karina Wood

on behalf of the ESPEC Steering Committee

cc:        Governor Lincoln Chaffee

Mayor Angel Taveras

Superintendent Susan Lusi

Julie Tremaine, Executive Editor, East Side Monthly

Linda Borg, Education Reporter, Providence Journal

 

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