Thursday, December 22, 2011

At MLK for the best half hour of my day

Why do I ever think that it's possible to make a super quick visit to my kids' elementary school, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary? The idea that I can just run in and drop something off--today, a couple of Stop and Shop gift cards for families in need and a plate of cookies for the office staff--is ridiculous in the best possible way.

I am so grateful for the connections and relationships in that school, for the ongoing conversations, for the friendships. But today, though I really love them, I swear I really was going to run in, make my delivery, and get out of there, ten minutes tops, for real this time. So of course before I knew it, I was wrapping a dozen or so presents from the MLK school community to a handful of children who would otherwise experience a bleak holiday next week. I had no choice, really, and though I had thought I had places to go and people to see in the most urgent way, there was nowhere else I'd rather have been. If I didn't have to come back to work, I'd still be there, wrapping and shooting the breeze. Even if just for a half an hour or so, I was so happy to be reminded that our family is a part of a school community that makes a real effort to think about all kids and all families.

King's staff members discreetly identified a group of kids whose families are struggling significantly and King's principal, Derrick Ciesla, shared his intention on Facebook to match donations from the King community. A few people shared his post, and word started getting out. King's staff members, families, and people who are outside the school community who heard about the Santa Ciesla project and wanted to help came through--are still coming through--with incredible generosity.

If you want to see the MLK elves in action, WPRI sent a reporter out yesterday - you can check out their report, which was on the  6:00 evening news, here. The photo to the right is a still from the video they shot - I love this image as it featured another MLK parent, Lorraine Lalli, who I suspect was similarly sucked it. I am telling you, do not step foot in that building unless you want to feel really great as a small part of a big effort to take care of those who need it most this holiday season.

I suspect other schools are doing the same. For sure, King in past years has quietly reached out to families in need. Perhaps the social media angle made this big and noticeable this year. Either way, I am happy to celebrate principal Ciesla and everyone at King for their generosity and grateful for the best 30 minutes of my day today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Form vs Function" - January East Side Monthly column online

The January East Side Monthly is online, and with it my column on the impact of the quality of school facilities on learning. Kudos to ESM for the spiffy new online format! 

Here's the original version of the piece (bit longer, with links, but pretty much the same):

When our family chose to move to the East Side of Providence in 2004, we were gratified to see the wide range of K-12 schools in the neighborhood. As a family with two (at the time) and (now) three young kids, we wanted to live in a place where we would have options and possibilities that would fit our kids as they developed. That reasoning applied to choosing Providence generally and the East Side specifically. We had relocated from an urban area and wanted to remain city-dwellers for a number of reasons, including diversity within schools and a diversity of choice among schools. At that time, we toured a number of public, private, and religiously affiliated East Side schools and since that time, I’ve given many tours of one school in particular (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, which all of my kids have attended or are currently enrolled).

Before now, I have not spent a whole lot of time analyzing the schools’ facilities for my own kids, and for the most part, the family members to whom I have given tours of King also have not made the school building their chief concern.  Speaking for myself, the physical structure of the buildings seemed too much of an immutable element for serious consideration. I certainly noticed whether or not the buildings were clean and well cared for, but didn’t think critically beyond that. Instead, I focused on what I could learn about the schools’ culture, climate, values, curriculum, atmosphere, and habits of family involvement in kids’ education. Those were the factors that seemed to matter most at the time and for the most part, continue to have the strongest influence on the quality of my kids’ education.

That said, for those who wish to ponder the question of whether and how school facilities matter to young people’s learning and lasting success in school, the K-12 school facilities in our neighborhood offer the full range of what’s possible. Beautiful renovations and lovely campuses on lush lawns contrast with timeworn buildings and schools situated in buildings not necessarily designed as schools at all. We have new and aged buildings. Our neighborhood has school facilities that demonstrate care and thoughtfulness architecturally, environmentally and educationally and school facilities that demonstrate exactly the opposite qualities. There’s a huge and inequitable range of quality among school facilities nationwide, and the East Side replicates that.

So how much does do the quality of facilities really matter to learning? Part of the reason that I write this column is to share what turns up when I dive into educational research to answer questions that nag me. I figure if I’m thinking about something, you might be, too. So here’s what I found out about the ways that school facilities affect the experience of teaching and learning.

According to the 21st Century School Fund, a Washington DC-based nonprofit dedicated to the idea that communities are responsible for creating healthy, safe, and educationally appropriate learning environments, nearly every recent study shows a correlation between the condition of school facilities and educational achievement once student demographic factors were excluded as factors. Students test results are lower in inadequate facilities, as are attendance rates. Drop out rates are higher.

Poor facilities also directly impact the health of everyone who spends time in them, students and teachers alike. According to the United States General Accounting Office, one in five students nationwide attend poorly ventilated schools--perhaps more in Providence given the age of and wear and tear on many of our city’s schools. Temperature, noise, and access to daylight add to the factors that detract from adequate conditions for teaching and learning.

Inadequate facilities can also affect a school’s ability to retain high quality educators; teachers are more likely to take more sick days in building with poor air quality and severely run-down facilities and are less likely to remain at those schools for the long haul. Certainly, high-quality environments for teaching and learning aren’t the only factor for a school’s success. Every day, in our neighborhood, across the city, and nationwide, we see wonderful teachers creating positive change in the lives of young people in cruddy conditions. We know that strong relationships among and between students and educators, excellent curricula, and other factors matter hugely.

Financial crises have forced Providence Public Schools have had to abandon the facilities master planning recommendations presented to the Providence School Board in 2010, and our current stagnant financial climate makes capital improvements more challenging for all of our neighborhood’s schools. That said, given the right kinds of fundraising and financial management, independent schools may have more control over their facilities development than public schools, which are necessarily included in the overall planning processes of the Providence Public School district, which itself is directly affected by the school building funding and regulations that come from the Rhode Island Department of Education and the General Assembly. At the end of the most recent General Assembly legislative session, school building and capital improvement funds were put on an “indefinite freeze” statewide.

It’s tempting, given the challenges that we face, to bury our heads in the sands of deferral. But we can’t continue to pretend that facilities don’t matter as much as they do. We need to advocate for proper funding to ensure that all of our schools offer at least basic appropriate conditions for teaching and learning, including up-to-speed technological infrastructure. You may want to follow the progress of H.R. 2948, the Fix America's Schools Today (FAST) bill, introduced in September 2011. Co-sponsored by U.S. Representative David Cicilline, the FAST bill is designed to be both a school improvement program and a jobs stimulus bill. Rhode Island’s legislators should consider complementary state level legislation so that we can ensure that the places for learning in our neighborhood, and all neighborhoods, offer fair access to learning and can remain at the center of our communities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pecha Kucha Providence tomorrow - 20x20 on the relationship between schools and families

With other brave souls, I will be sharing thoughts tomorrow night (Wednesday, 12/21) on the topic of relationships at Pecha Kucha Providence at The Met at Hope Artiste Village, 1005 Main Street in Pawtucket. Doors open @ 7:20.

Per the Pecha Kucha format. I'll be presenting 20 images and talking about each for 20 seconds. My topic is not actually on the relationship in general between families and schools but rather on the specific, particular, evolving relationship between my family and the Providence Public Schools. There may be generalizations to be made. Or there may not be. In any event, it's our story about which as, if you're reading this, you know I obsess, so I'm going for it. I would love to see some of you there!

Rhode Island wins federal Early Learning Race to the Top grant

As WPRI reports, Rhode Island's youngest learners will be the beneficiaries of a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge award from the United States Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.  Rhode Island is one of nine states to win early learning RttT grant funds. Based on the strength of existing programs including Ready to Learn Providence, Rhode Island applied for $50,000 million to support early learning statewide with a focus on underserved communities. These funds have the potential to create universal high quality preK programs, which would address a one of our state's most fundamental equity issues. Fantastic news!

Update - just ran across this analysis on the Quick and the Ed blog that shares criteria and scoring methods for the states that applied for the RttT-ELC funds. Yeah, I know I cheered above, and I am happy for Rhode Island in this instance, but not at the expense of other states' young learners. I remain opposed in terms of equity to the notion that states must compete to win funding that most if not all so urgently need. Winning comes down to following the rules of the scoring, which does not necessarily demand the same skill set among professionals as building strong programs.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I hope that this is a conversation.

Heads up for those who want to attend meetings about Providence's schools until the bitter end of 2011: on Tuesday, December 20, Mayor Angel Taveras and Superintendent Susan Lusi will be co-hosting a Community Conversation on Education in Providence from 6:30-8:00pm at Nathanael Greene Middle School, 721 Chalkstone Avenue in Providence.

A bit more info about the event is here: along with a link to what presumably is the subject of the discussion, the Educate Providence website which features the outcome of the Education Opportunities Working Group. I say that I hope it's a conversation because the report from the group is well worth discussing, exploring, and understanding in terms of their likely impact on Providence's education system.

This event is also scheduled on the first night of Hanukkah, so I can't be there. I understand it's hard to find dates that work well for most people, and one assumes that this date was chosen with the understanding that some of us would have family obligations. Nevertheless, it's really unfortunately scheduled; I hope that another such session will be held in early January for those who can't make it either because of Hanukkah or because this is generally such a wildly busy time of year for many across the religious, or not, spectrum.

Update from Angela Romans, who emailed the following: "Yes, we are planning to have 2 more such meetings in January and are working out the dates. Those will be announced and posted by next week." Excellent to hear and when those dates are posted, I'll share them here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Providence School Board candidates public forum 12/14 6-8pm

Tomorrow evening (Wednesday, 12/14) from 6:00-8:00pm, in the Providence Career and Technical Academy auditorium, 41 Fricker Street, candidates for Providence School Board vacancies, of which there are three, will appear at a public forum so that interested community members can meet and ask questions of the candidates. The forum will occur from 6-8PM.

I wonder if this different from past such forums, during which the audience didn't direct participate but listened to questions posed to the candidates by members of the School Board Nominating Commission. This seems more like a general Q and A. I can't go but would love a report from anyone who can and does attend.

The full announcement from the Mayor's office about the search for Providence School Board candidates and related activities, including this forum, is here.

Kudos to Central High School for NEASC accreditation

The ProJo reports that Providence's Central High School has received initial accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). NEASC's Commission on Public Secondary Schools awards accreditation after a school meets benchmarks and standards as assessed by self-study and visits from evaluators. Central joins four other NEASC-accredited Providence high schools -- Classical, Hope, E-Cubed, and PAIS @ the Juanita Sanchez Education Complex -- and 40 accredited high schools statewide. Here's the full list of RI high schools with full accreditation; William B. Cooley Health Science Technology High School @ the Juanita Sanchez Education Complex is a candidate for accreditation.

Kudos to Central for meeting the NEASC standards - all high schools should, of course, and while we support them all to do so, we can celebrate the achievement of those that do. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are School Uniforms a Good Fit?

I'm catching up on posting East Side Monthly columns! Here's what I wrote for the November 2011 issue, which isn't online due to ESM's spiffy website makeover, which features content from December 2011 onward (and I didn't write for that issue due to work craziness). I am back at it - January's ESM education column is on equity and school facilities and should be out soon. But for now - here's November's column on school uniforms and whether they're right for Providence's public schools, along with my thanks to the people who gave me their time and thoughts on the subject.


At a recent citywide gathering of parents with children in the Providence Public Schools, I found myself in the minority when the subject of school uniforms arose. First off, in order to establish my minority position, I will share that I’m not in favor of mandatory uniforms, especially in public schools. That’s not to say that I don’t want kids to look their best. Clearly stated and consistently enforced dress codes create an atmosphere for learning with minimal distraction while still allowing for choice and free expression, and the Providence Public Schools’ dress code is a fine example. However, most other parents in whose company I found myself spoke up enthusiastically for school uniforms. Their kids and their peers would benefit tremendously from school uniforms, they said as they urged the Providence Public Schools to make uniforms mandatory in all schools.

The overwhelmingly positive response from parents from across the city made me reconsider my own anti-uniform stance. What was so attractive about the idea of school uniforms in all of our public schools--and why didn’t I share that view?

Those who support mandatory school uniforms believe that uniforms emphasize to young people that they are at school to learn. Christina Murphy Pyman, a past Vartan Gregorian Elementary School at Fox Point parent, sums up what many in favor of school uniforms believe. “Uniforms are especially good for girls, who seem to be obsessed with how they look and what label they are wearing at a frighteningly young age,” notes Pyman. “They need to learn that it isn't how you look but what you can accomplish and they need to learn to focus! Wearing the right jeans when they grow up will not land them the job they want in the real world.”

Some uniform proponents argue that mandatory school uniforms correlate with a safer school culture and that uniforms can help students feel like they’re part of a team, which can increase a sense of school pride. Others say it’s just easier to get dressed in the morning. Allyson Seaborn, a friend who grew up in the United States (without school uniforms) and moved to Australia in high school, shared that all Australian public and private school students wear uniforms, and she is a major proponent of mandatory uniforms for school. “Honestly, as a parent I send my two kids off to school each day without any whinging, fashion planning, colour coordination of socks, or my daughter looking like a tart,” she explains. “They just go to school to learn. Uniforms are about making school years a little bit easier and more practical.” Seaborn’s thoughts resonated with Hope High School teacher Laura Maxwell, who while not endorsing uniforms, commented that uniforms would reduce the “decision fatigue” that is a significant factor in our lives.

Not such a big surprise, then, that school uniforms are such an appealing idea. However, they aren’t a sartorial panacea that will fix what’s ailing a school. Do dress codes eliminate distractions and put the focus on learning? Probably not. Research indicates that academic outcomes aren’t improved at schools with uniforms as compared to schools with similar populations and programs. Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, chair of Brown University’s Africana Studies department and president of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Organization, suggests that insisting on compliance to a uniform policy may well be a distraction to learning. “Administrators and communities should focus their energy on providing adequate resources so that schools can do what they do best--educate our children,” Walker says. “Since we have no reliable data to support all the ‘good’ that school uniforms do, we should focus our energy on ensuring that all schools have the requisite resources to serve all students in the pursuit of achieving the best of their potential.”

Others with experience wearing school uniforms as students feel that the uniforms put them or their kids at a real disadvantage. Providence Public School parent Karen Seiler recalls, “As someone who wore a uniform to school I can tell you they accomplish none of the supposed benefits. Students distinguish their wealth, status, and cliques through hairstyle, jewelry, shoes, and so on.” Another friend whose children attended a charter school with a strictly enforced uniform policy was plagued by the anxiety of getting the uniform up to snuff in the mornings and the inevitable loss of time in schools (and loss of work for her) when her kids were sent home for noncompliance. Uniforms established an anxiety about school in terms of fitting in and meeting expectations that her kids are still sorting through, years later.

School uniforms represent what many families want for their kids and their schools: a calm, orderly, focused learning environment, and therein lies their appeal. But the challenges that face us as we work to create great schools for all children are complex, and the solutions require a parallel level of complexity and nuance. Dr. Corey D. B. Walker takes the point further, noting, “The discourse on school uniforms strikes me as emblematic of the problem of public school education in our nation--the simplistic pursuit of a single remedy to alleviate the systemic problems that have been and continue to be part of the history of public education in America.”

When we talk about schools, we often fail to make the distinction between standards and standardization. A dress code represents standards; a uniform, standardization. The consequences to insisting on standardization in a multicultural society are significant, as Walker suggests. “School uniforms imperially impose a Euro-centric norm and conception of proper conduct and behavior that is antithetical to a society that claims to value cultural diversity.” While public and charter schools, which are not required to educate any and all students, may well benefit from mandatory uniform policies, uniforms don’t have a meaningful place in our public schools. With respect to those who are in favor, I hope to work together with educators and students to create places of learning where high standards and personal freedom can coexist.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MLK Elementary tours!

As I mentioned in the previous post, along with other family members, students, and staff members, I'll be giving tours of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School at 35 Camp Street in Providence during the coming weeks. Please come and see the school in preparation for kindergarten enrollment, which is happening between 1/3/12 and 2/10/12. Visit for more information about registering your child for kindergarten (and other grades).

We welcome you on a tour if you're curious about the school for a child in any grade or in preparation for school for your little kids in years to come. Click on the image for a larger version of the flier, and please share this info.

The tours of King are happening as follows:

(tomorrow!) Wednesday 12/7, 5:00pm
Friday 12/9, 11:00am
Friday, 12/16, 11:00am
Friday, 1/6, 11:00am
Friday, 1/20, 11:00am
Friday, 1/27, 11:00am
Friday, 2/3, 11:00am

With the exception of tomorrow evening's tour, all tours are led by fifth grade students with support form parents and include a meeting with school principal Derrick Ciesla. Please contact MLK Elementary at 456-9398 to sign up for a tour.

If any readers know of PPSD elementary school tours happening at other schools, I'd love to share that info here - let me know! Thanks.

Family and community engagement: less is more

Would you like to go to a meeting? Because, man, do we have them this week. Tonight, tomorrow night, and Thursday night are full of meetings and hearings related to the Achievement First Mayoral Academies charter school application that's been submitted to RIDE. Tonight, there's a Providence City Council education subcommittee hearing at 5:30 at City Hall (more info here). Tomorrow and Thursday night, the Rhode Island Board of Regents is holding hearings in Providence, tomorrow at 6pm at Kennedy Elementary School, Thursday at 6pm at Alvarez High School (more info, respectively aligned along some sort of spectrum here, here, and here). And that's just what's happening in Providence related to this one particular topic.

In Providence, it's also Open Schools Week for elementary schools, which means that families interested in public elementary schools are likely taking time off work or away from other responsibilities to visit schools. I'm spending evenings and lunch hours getting ready for and giving tours of MLK Elementary, where my kids go to school. This is great! But again, this week? With everything else? Too much.

Read on for schedule-related bitching and moaning, if that's your pleasure...

While I'd be way crankier if there were no hearings or publicly available information, I am sufficiently cranky with all of this happening immediately, right now, one after the other, especially since there is no actual rush as far as I am aware. As Tom Hoffman points out, the deadline for charter applications is four months away. There's ample time for various public entities to schedule hearings in ways that allow families with kids (or any of you out there who may work evenings or just otherwise have plenty going on) to plan to attend. After a strenuous bout of childcare wrangling, I think I'll be able to attend tomorrow night's Regents' hearing at Kennedy but that's it. And I am blessed with a daytime job, fairly easy kids, a car, and a spouse who supports my desire to participate. 

Generally, I regard myself as a fortunate person, especially when it comes to being able to be involved with the schools in my community. Though I work full time, I have enough control over my time to be able to spend time in schools. I have been able to form meaningful relationships with other family members, staff members, students, and administrators. I feel like I am able to contribute to conversations about what's happening in education in Providence and beyond in a variety of ways - in conversations, in public forums, on this blog, in my East Side Monthly column, and in my professional life. And as a member of the dominant culture who speaks English and feels happy and at home in school settings, I am well aware of my privilege and access, and happy to use some of it to ask that we think about ways to schedule hearings and opportunities for family and community involvement that support that involvement. 

When possible, I hope that the various towns involved with this proposal, along with RIDE, communicate with each other about when hearings are happening, and try to make sure they don't happen on weeks when there are other big district-wide events such as Open Schools Week. I have no expectation that all of us can attend everything, but this week's event pile-up is way beyond possible for most regular folks. 

In order to have consistent, inclusive family and community involvement, we really need better planning. Too many events, while better than too few, create their own frustrations that could be avoided by better planning. Moving forward, let's look at the various demands on folks' time and try to schedule them in ways that are possible for the largest possible group of people. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

RIDE Public Forum on ESEA Flexibility, Monday, December 12

This information comes from the RIDE email list - thought it was worth sharing for those who may not be on the list:
You are invited to join Commissioner Deborah A. Gist for a public forum to discuss Rhode Island’s request for flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)/No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The forum will be held Monday, December 12, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 255 Westminster Street in Providence, in room 260.
As you may know, the U.S. Department of Education is inviting states to request flexibility, on behalf of their districts and schools, in order to better focus on improving student learning. This opportunity would provide educators and state and local leaders with flexibility regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.
Rhode Island is beginning to develop its request for flexibility, and the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers this public forum to present information about this opportunity and to request your input.  Please contact Kim Bright ( with any questions about this event.
If you wish to subscribe to the RIDE mailing list, sign up here:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Report on 11/29 Providence City Council Hearing on Achievement First's Mayor Academies Proposal from Richard Purnell

The following report comes from Richard Purnell, a parents of a Providence Public School student who was able to attend the Providence City Council's Education Subcommittee's hearing on Achievement First's proposal to establish two Mayoral Academies in Providence to serve student from Providence and surrounding municipalities. Commentary/clarifications from me are in brackets [like this]. Many thanks to Richard for this report! 
I arrived at the council's meeting room on the third floor of City Hall a little before 5 pm -  in time for me to see them setting up some folding chairs in the "back" of the room by the windows. Pretty soon it would be SRO. Linda Borg [the Providence Journal's education reporter] was front and center, Angela Romans [Mayor Taveras' Senior Adviser on Education] was nearby, and the scene was being taped [by Jessica Jennings] for the perennial documentary on educational progress in Providence. I took one of the chairs by the window, which gave me a pretty good view but - as it turned out - poor acoustics. Around 5:03 pm, I watched Councilor Zurier bring the room to order and convene the meeting with a declared quorum, knowing that I would have to leave around 6:00 pm. 
Councilor Zurier explained that this was going to be conducted as an information-seeking meeting and that people would have several other opportunities soon to express their views about Achievement First (AF). Following a presentation by AF, there would be an opportunity to ask questions. He explained that there were time constraints associated with the meeting and told us what the order and manner of questioning would be, with members of the education subcommittee going first, councilpersons next, and the public last.\ 
The City Councilors I could clearly identify from my vantage point were Councilors Matos, Yurdin  Narducci  Solomon, Correia, Jennings, Principe, Zurier, and (I think) Salvatore. Others may have been there and I did not see or recognize them. I had heard from Councilor Jackson the day before that his presence would be required elsewhere at the time of the meeting, but that he would have wanted to attend. The principal spokesperson for AF at the meeting was Reshma Singh. She was assisted from time to time by a woman, Christine Lopes, and a man, whose name I later found out is Bill Fischer. 
For an "exact" account of what transpired, I have been told by City Clerk Anna Stetson that minutes of the meeting will be available in a couple of weeks, at the earliest.  I would also recommend Linda Borg's article in the November 30th issue of the Providence Journal for a fine synopsis of important exchanges that took place [sorry, can't find it online]. What follows will be some impressions, reactions, and afterthoughts regarding what I was able to witness over the sirens and other street noises that competed with the proceedings from where I sat. 
I was impressed with the manner in which Councilor Zurier conducted the meeting and the efforts councilors made to present salient issues to the AF spokesperson. There were a few instances when things had to be "ushered" along by the chair, but this was carried out in a considerate manner. The presentation by AF was coherent and polished; there were handouts, but I think they were only available for the subcommittee members. Perhaps when I get the minutes I'll be able to obtain the handouts also. 
One reaction I had was to AF's response to a question about their reputation for not encouraging or engaging parents in the "operation" of their schools. Basically, what I heard them say was that there would be a parent on the mayoral board and that would seem to satisfy that demand. 
Another reaction was when Councilor Principe was questioning Ms Singh about the recent news that four AF schools in Connecticut had not made their AYPs. Her response was to point out that these schools had made great progress in test scores, but that they just were not great enough to bring them over the mark set for acceptable performance. AYPs, she said, were incredibly complex to fathom and she had recently spent considerable time familiarizing herself with them. What needed to be focused on, she said, were the great strides made by the students. I'll let the reader reflect a little on where we have heard that response before and how it was received. I also wondered about the impetus for really digging into understanding AYPs being failing to attain them. I suppose you really don't have to understand what it is you are supposed to be attaining until you don't attain it. 
Councilor Principe's concentration on AF's failure to make AYPs seemed to have a very valid query: Why should a community that has schools with passing AYPs in some of its schools need to import an organization with failing AYPs when it can look to its own successful schools for answers?
One thing I was hoping to hear brought up was the low numbers of students projected to be in the classes their two schools will contain. So lower class sizes and fewer of the more challenging students gets presented as raising the bar of education in Providence. On a somewhat related note, I thought wouldn't it be grand if Walmart gave Providence (instead of AF) $250,000 for each of two elementary schools it opened with "176 students the first year."  I got those numbers from an article by Linda Borg, which seemed to be based on responses from AF. I wondered at the time why it said two schools the first year when elsewhere they speak of opening a school in 2013 and the second in 2014. There's a lot that needs sorting out (as in deeper educational thinking) here. 
So, to wrap things up for now, the more I see folks dig into the inner workings and long-term implications of the AF way of looking at what it has to offer Providence's needs for closing its achievement gaps, the more it looks to be a facade.  The path to school reform in Providence needs to be paved with more than good intentions and hyperbole. I sincerely hope more of us will get out to these hearings on the AF proposal and think critically about what is being offered as a solution for one of our most important issues:  the true condition of our public schools and what it is compared to what it should be. --Richard Purnell
Final Achievement First note of the day: per this AP report that ran on Channel 10's website, the Warwick School Committee voted last night to opposed the creation of the Achievement First Mayor Academies that would draw students from Warwick, citing concerns about cost and lack of familiarity with Achievement First.

Community Letter on Achievement First's Providence Mayoral Academies Proposal

As I mentioned in the previous post, on Monday, November 28, a coalition of Providence City Council members (Bryan Principe, Ward 13; Davian Sanchez, Ward 11; Kevin Jackson, Ward 3; Luis Aponte, Ward 10; Michael Correia, Ward 6; Nicholas Narducci, Ward 4; and Carmen Castillo, Ward 9; community groups and citizens delivered a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee that described their concerns about Achievement First's proposal to open two Mayoral Academy charter schools in Providence in 2013 and 2014 to serve students from Providence and surrounding communities. Click here to view the letter on Google Docs.