fb-pixel Skip to main content

Providence schools might be in worse shape than you thought

The Providence School Department headquarters.
The Providence School Department headquarters.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

If you have friends or relatives who would like their own free copy of this daily briefing about Rhode Island, tell them they can sign up here.


Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’m already counting down the days (63) until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

We’ve heard a lot about the struggles of Providence schools over the last six months, but the Johns Hopkins University professor who led the review of the district is making it clear that Rhode Island’s largest school district is in even worse shape than most state leaders thought.


In a podcast interview that published Monday with Education Next, a publication that covers school reform, David Steiner said Providence’s student outcomes “would place it in the bottom four cities in the United States” if the city was large enough to be included among a group of 27 urban districts whose results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are analyzed together.

The other cities in that cluster: Baltimore, Detroit and Fresno, California.

“And that shouldn’t be the case for a city in Rhode Island that, while it has its challenges, doesn’t face the kind of abject, concentrated poverty that those cities do,” Steiner said.

Steiner, a former New York education commissioner who now runs the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, acknowledged Providence has unique challenges compared to many districts around the country, particularly when it comes to its large population of English learners.

But he said his team of researchers was taken aback by the complexity of the governance structure in Providence, noting that nearly everyone they spoke with complained about the layers of bureaucracy that exist between the mayor’s office, City Council, school board and the state.


While Steiner praised Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green for taking over the district, he also pointed out that Rhode Island leaders have little sense of whether any dramatic reforms – particularly those involving the teachers’ union contract – would stand up to a legal challenge.

He said the state has a law that allows the state to take control of persistently low-performing schools, but it also has strong collective bargaining rules that may supersede reform policies.

“No one knows, at this point, what the relative weight that a court might give to one or the other when they conflict,” Steiner said.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

Speaking of Providence schools, what happens when the geometry teacher doesn’t know geometry? Commissioner Infante-Green is learning that running the district is no easy task, and she has a lot of decisions to make before the end of 2019.

Breaking news that came in after the closing bell on Wall Street Monday: John Taylor, who helped Twin River become a national player in the casino industry, is out as chair of the company’s board of directors. Soohyung Kim, whose New York hedge fund is a major Twin River stockholder, has been named the chairman.


After Rhode Map reported Monday that US Representative James Langevin is undecided on whether he’ll vote to impeach President Trump, progressive state Senator Sam Bell tweeted that it is “un-American” for Langevin to have not made up his mind yet. Bell quickly deleted the tweet, and posted a new one calling the congressman’s position “disappointing.”

Who says your vote doesn’t matter? An at-large City Council seat in Boston has been decided by one vote.

Are you as confused about the vaping craze as I am? My colleague Felecia Gans answers all the questions that you were too afraid to ask.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

The Providence City Council is holding a special meeting tonight to approve a 20-year tax break for a developer who wants to build a hotel in the old Providence Journal building next door to City Hall.

Among the topics on the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s agenda this morning: Outgoing state Director of Administration Michael DiBiase’s question about whether he is subject to the state’s revolving door policy when he takes on his new job as head of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.

The task force that is reviewing Rhode Island’s education funding formula meets at the State House tonight to discuss the state’s federal accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


The activists who are seeking to close the Wyatt Detention Facility are holding another rally this afternoon in Central Falls. This time, they’re coordinating their protest with activists in Kansas City who will organize outside the office of a bank they say profits from the Wyatt.

A week after reporting $55 million in operating losses for its last fiscal year, Lifespan is holding its annual meeting tonight.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

Please tell your friends about Rhode Map! They can sign up here. The Globe has other e-mail newsletters on topics ranging from breaking news alerts to sports, politics, business, and entertainment -- check them out.