One board endorses, another opposes charter proposal
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.