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City council: scale back Achievement First

December 9, 2011

The Providence City Council’s Education Subcommittee has released draft findings after a series of meetings on Achievement First, the charter operator looking to open two elementary schools in the capitol city.

The report finds that Achievement First would have a negative financial impact on Providence schools, to the tune of between $6 million and $9 million. That’s even after a projected $1 million savings from teacher layoffs due to a reduction in student body.

“Under this scenario, we would expect Providence to have to close an elementary school as a result of the opening of the proposed pair of Mayoral academies,” the report says. “This would be particularly difficult after the experience the District had last Spring of closing four schools and repurposing two others.”

Despite this, the group is recommending that Achievement First get a green light for one elementary school, but not two as their application currently envisions.

“While supporting the opening of the first AF school on schedule, we also recommend postponing the opening of the second school for an additional three years,” the report states. “During that time, the AF school can win the support of parents and provide the Providence Public Schools with a better opportunity to prepare for the changes that the opening might bring.”

The report is mixed when it comes to Achievement First’s educational model. The authors note that Achievement First schools ask a lot of their students. According to the charter operator’s presentation, the daily schedule includes 75 minutes of reading… before breakfast. The schools also provide more than six hours of instruction, including three hours and fifteen minutes of literacy, and that’s just before lunch. Achievement First says its common for their students to fall asleep during school before they get used to the schedule.

“[W]e suspect there may be some self-selection among AF’s students, as it is possible that not every parent will embrace a program this demanding,” the authors write.

However, the authors also admire the way Achievement First teachers accept a longer school day as a condition of their employment, noting that the school day is eight hours and 45 minutes, compared to just six hours and five minutes in Providence Schools – something the district has long sought to change.

“[A]an AF school could provide the Providence Public Schools with some helpful ideas, supported by actual practice, in how to raise student achievement and narrow the achievement gap,” the report says. “It also could provide parents with choice, and an incentive for the Providence Public School to try new approaches…”

Ultimately, the State Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education will decide the fate of the Achievement First proposal. The board wrapped up a series of two hearings on the charter schools last night.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Janice Ruggieri permalink
    December 10, 2011 7:22 pm

    When is this report going to be given to the Board of Regents. Why was it not presented at the hearings? Who was on this committee?

    • December 12, 2011 12:45 pm

      Good Question!

      Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier chairs the education subcommittee, and he says this report is still in draft form. It is scheduled for discussion at the committee’s meeting today, Monday, December 12th at 6 p.m.

      • Janice Ruggieri permalink
        December 12, 2011 1:05 pm

        I have a School Committee meeting tonight at the same time so I will not be able to attend the meeting. Would you be able to send me any info given out at the meeting?


        Janice Ruggieri
        Cranston School Committee Ward 4

      • December 12, 2011 1:58 pm

        Looks like we’re in the same boat! I have to miss the subcommittee meeting tonight as well, but I’ll ask Councilor Zurier if he can share some information about the discussion. I’ll give you the update as soon as I have it!

      • Janice Ruggieri permalink
        December 12, 2011 9:38 pm

        Thanks I would appreciate it.

        Janice Ruggieri

  2. Fran Chase permalink
    December 16, 2011 11:30 pm

    So let me get this right. Providence closes the only middle school that made AYP. It also closed three elementary schools that made AYP. They want to bring in Achievement First who is responsible for four schools in Connecticut that didn’t make AYP. In addition they have a bad track record for servicing ELL and special education students. Including getting cited for treating ELL like they were special ed students. Let’s look at it this way. If I were getting heart surgery and the surgeon had just lost all of his previous patients and I found out there was another surgeon who had succeeded in his last few operations. I am willing to bet I would go with the latter surgeon. Why is it that with education failing charters are seen as an answer. If you go to the Connecticut Department of Education and get the list of schools that didn’t make AYP four of the schools are run by Achievement First.

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