Report outlines ideas for improving Providence schools

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Nearly four months after the city brought together more than 400 students, parents, educators and other stakeholders for an all-day summit on education, the Elorza administration released a report Thursday outlining the group’s ideas for improving Providence’s schools.

The 23-page report on the “All In Providence education summit” recommends the city take steps to improve facilities, cultivate a “culturally responsive” learning environment for kids, build a pipeline for educators of color, improve outcomes for English language learners and leverage community partnerships.

“In Providence we are all in for education, which is evident by the enthusiasm and community participation we saw at the summit,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a statement. “This engagement has demonstrated the citywide commitment to supporting our students. It’s through continued community and stakeholder input that we will transform Providence into one of the top performing urban districts in the country.”

The summit and a year of follow-up work is funded through a $200,000 grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Adeola Oredola, the part-time coordinator of the summit, has been paid $28,650 to date, but is scheduled to earn $75,000 over the year, according to a spokesperson for the city.

Among the short-term and long-term ideas recommended in the report:

  • Strengthen community awareness around infrastructure challenges and determine a funding strategy to improve facilities;
  • Analyze suspension and attendance data through a racial equity lens and make “system-wide changes around how behavior is monitored and disciplined;”
  • Build a professional environment that values diversity and ask the state for certification requirements that are more inclusive of non-traditional pathways to teaching;
  • Hold regular meetings for English language learners and their families to provide feedback and advocate for a dedicated state funding stream for ELL students;
  • Engage in an asset-mapping process around community resources and develop clear framework for partnerships with the school district.

“I’m deeply moved by all of the ways our community is pushing for educational equity in a way that centers the experiences of our beautifully diverse students,” Oredola said in a statement. “The summit was an opportunity for us to witness the many ways that’s happening in Providence—from groups who’ve been making magic happen in the margins of our community for years with very few resources; to newer efforts that have sparked because our current social and political realities demand that we create more just and sustainable ways to live.”

The city is scheduled to hold another community engagement event on Aug. 24 at the Providence Career and Technical Academy at 5:30 p.m.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan