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Reviving the debate on Achievement First

November 28, 2011

A coalition of community groups plans to present a letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee today, outlining concerns about Achievement First’s new application to open charter schools in Rhode Island.

Organizers say the group includes neighborhood associations, parent organizations, student and community organizing groups, private-sector unions, and public officials.

Achievement First is seeking to open two mayoral academy elementary schools in Providence that would serve students from Providence, Cranston and other communities. The group had first hoped to open schools in Cranston, but state officials turned down the application citing strong opposition from the local school committee and some parents and teachers.

Supporters of Achievement First say the charter manager has gotten exemplary results at schools in Connecticut, where many of their students are now scoring at levels close to their peers in wealthier districts.

Detractors say Achievement First uses a rigid structure that is not right for all students, and they argue that public funding would be better used to improve existing Providence public schools.

Achievement First has scaled back its application to include just two elementary schools, where the first application discussed the group’s ambition to eventually open a total of five schools. The new proposal also seeks to allay concerns about the loss of funding to public schools by drawing students from a larger number of districts. Still, the debate over the second Achievement First application is likely to be just as lively as the first go-round. The State Department of Education has scheduled public hearings this week:

Wednesday, December 7, at 6 p.m.
Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School, 195 Nelson St., Providence 02908

Thursday, December 8, at 6 p.m.
Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School, 375 Adelaide Ave., Providence 02907

A copy of the charter application is posted on the RIDE website.

Meanwhile, the Providence City Council is also scheduled to consider the Achievement First proposal. The council’s education subcommittee will hear from supporters on Tuesday, November 29th at 5:00 p.m. The Providence School Department will give an analysis of the proposal’s impact on district finances December 6th at 5:30 p.m.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 28, 2011 3:59 pm

    This proposal should never have been approved by RIDE even for public comment. It does not comply with the basic definition of a mayoral academy, because it does not offer an equal number of enrollments to students from participating cities and towns. It explicitly does not have a set number of seats per community.

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