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One board endorses, another opposes charter proposal

August 23, 2011

The Providence School Board was unanimous last night in backing a proposal from Achievement First, the charter school operator looking to open two elementary schools and eventually two middle schools and a high school for students in Providence and Cranston.

The Cranston School Board unanimously rejected the proposal earlier this summer over concerns about how it would affect state funding for the school district. Some parents and teachers have also expressed reservations about strict discipline policies and oversight. 

The new schools would be a special type of charter school known as mayoral academies and would come under the purview of Cranston Mayor Alan Fung rather than the school board in either Cranston or Providence. A similar school, Blackstone Valley Prep, already exists in Cumberland.

Achievement First has passionate, and in some cases powerful, supporters including State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, mayors Alan Fung, Angel Taveras and Scott Avedisian, and education reform advocates like the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN). They argue that while regular public schools are still struggling to improve test scores for low income students, Achievement First is showing gains at schools in New York and Connecticut.

In its endorsement, the Providence School Board cites a commitment to supporting promising programs and to working with outside organizations to provide more opportunities to Providence school children. The group plans to send a letter reflecting “enthusiastic support” for Achievement First to the  State Board of Regents, which will ultimately decide the fate of the proposal.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. malachi Constant permalink
    August 23, 2011 5:57 pm

    This is why you need an elected school board in Providence. If these people were accountable to the voters this would never have happened.

  2. August 24, 2011 2:14 pm

    You may be right. I asked the acting Providence School Board Chair Nina Pande what made her support the proposal. She told me that after hearing from the charter group directly, she felt Achievement First was offering innovative methods that might eventually help other Providence schools. Pande also said she is not concerned that Achievement First schools will essentially become their own school district. She pointed out that they will be overseen by a board whose members would include Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Cranston Mayor Alan Fung.

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