PROVIDENCE — State and city leaders are promising to implement sweeping changes to Providence’s school system following the release of a scathing report on the struggling district.
So what are they saying? Here’s a roundup of responses from Rhode Island’s key stakeholders.
Governor Gina Raimondo
“This report is devastating for the generations of students who have been denied a quality education, for the teachers who haven’t been supported, and for the parents who haven’t been heard. After seeing this report, there is no question that the system is broken, and Providence schools are in crisis. This report calls on all of us to step up and to channel our collective outrage into action. I’ve tasked Commissioner Infante-Green with leading a series of community conversations over the coming weeks to help develop recommendations for the best path forward.”
Mayor Jorge Elorza
“This report paints a grim, concerning picture of our school district. The truth is that most, if not all, of the issues that were observed are challenges that we, too, have identified and experienced as barriers to progress. This report makes clear that the status quo is failing our kids and we know that nipping at the margins will not be enough. We need wholesale, transformational change and I look forward to working with state partners, teachers, parents and students to accomplish it.”
Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green
“This report delivers a direct and powerful message about the challenges facing the Providence Public School District – and it is a message that is both painful to hear and impossible to ignore. The Johns Hopkins team has provided an invaluable service to us all — focusing our attention on the bureaucratic dysfunction that leads to a host of problems that prevent the city’s students from learning and thriving. Today offers us a moment to confront the facts and commit to do everything we can to give all Providence students the education they deserve. Let’s get to work.”
Providence Superintendent Christopher Maher
“The RIDE report creates a much-needed sense of urgency around the educational needs of Providence public school children and the system that strives to support them. My hope is that this sense of urgency translates into concrete actions that improve outcomes for our young people.
Just as Rhode Island is mirroring the Massachusetts approach to standardized testing, I hope that we will also attempt to explore Massachusetts’ latest school improvement plans which its commissioner recently previewed. These align well with the Providence School Board’s insightful and ambitious five-year strategic plan, ‘Empowering Students and Schools.’
I am very hopeful that the collaborative effort between RIDE, the city of Providence, our school board, and our community will yield favorable results for our students.”
Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro
“As you might imagine I am devastated by the report by Johns Hopkins. For the past two days I have felt like I have been kicked in the sternum by Godzilla wearing steel-toed boots. Some of the things in the document are not new, like the conditions of the physical plant, which I have been complaining about for years. Teachers and students have reported safety concerns for years as well. The other concerns around lack of curriculum, lack of rigor, low expectations, no teaching, no plan, no cohesive vision, procurement, lack of subs, the collective bargaining agreement, instability at the level and depth described were heartbreaking to hear.
Some of what was said was perception and not factual, but at the end of the day, the bottom line is we are a broken system. Not one piece, or one part of the system, is solely responsible. We are all responsible. We all need to own our messes, mistakes, problems and concerns. And once we do that, we need to come together, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. It will not be pretty, it won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but it can and must happen. The same way we broke it is the same way it gets fixed — honesty, ownership, together. Our kids deserve that and more from us as leaders.”
City Council President Sabina Matos
“The report released today by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) on the months-long deep dive completed by a research team from Johns Hopkins University is heartbreaking — not just for our students, but for our staff, faculty, and city. I am committed to working with Governor Raimondo, Commissioner Infante-Greene, Mayor Elorza, the Providence School Board, and our students, faculty, and staff to make a difference.
It won’t be easy, and we won’t see changes overnight, but this is a wake-up call. Our school system is failing our students and we need to act – not tomorrow – but today.”
Providence School Board President Nicholas Hemond
“My frustration is I often feel like I don’t have the tools in the tool chest to do what we need to do. I don’t always have a seat at the right table. I’ve gone to state Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cottam and asked for help. Now I sit here and say if the governance structure is problematic, we have to make a decision Do you want to have the school board, a citizen oversight commission, in charge of the schools or not? Either don’t have a school board or have one that you empower to do what it needs to do.”
Dan McGowan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.