In May of this year, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), invited Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy to lead a review of Providence Public School District (PPSD). RIDE Commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, with the support of RI Governor Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, welcomed the review.
Just yesterday the results of this review were released and the findings are astounding. So much so that when Commissioner Infante-Green was asked directly if she’d send her children to PPSD she replied, “No. Very clearly no.” She had more to say on Twitter :
“Decades of Neglect”! Sound familiar? The parallels to Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) are painfully clear. Despite widespread distrust of and displeasure with district leadership, Albuquerque is also stuck in an unhappy marriage with APS through decades of malpractice and neglect.
If Johns Hopkins wasn’t observing and writing about APS, it’s hard to tell. As reported here, school leaders and teachers have a touch more than zero confidence in APS leadership.
Leadership, by the way, whose superintendent sent her own daughter to the tony, $25k/year Albuquerque Academy while she was a principal in the district. The reality is that Sup. Reedy, like Commissioner Infante-Green, couldn’t stomach sending her own child to APS schools.
The Executive Report pulls no punches:
PPSD has an exceptionally low level of academic instruction, including a lack of quality curriculum and alignment both within schools and across the district. Very little visible student learning was going on in the majority of classrooms and schools we visited – most especially in the middle and high schools. Multiple stakeholders emphasized that the state, district, and business community have very low expectations for student learning. Many district team members and community partners broke down in tears when describing this reality, which classroom observations verified.
School culture is broken, and safety is a daily concern for students and teachers. Our review teams encountered many teachers and students who do not feel safe in school. There is widespread agreement that bullying, demeaning, and even physical violence are occurring within the school walls at very high levels, particularly at the middle and high school levels. We were particularly struck by the high incidence of teacher and student absenteeism, which appears closely linked to school culture and safety.
Beyond these safety concerns, teachers do not feel supported. Educators report a lack of agency and input into decisions at their schools and classrooms. They are also unable to improve their teaching, with most citing a lack of professional development as a key factor. As a result, the review teams encountered meaningful gaps in student support. These gaps ranged from too few ELL-certified teachers and special education staff, to widespread difficulties with substitute teachers that leave students without subject-matter experts or coherent instruction. Many people noted that the collective bargaining agreement presents a systemic barrier to good teaching in two primary ways: limiting professional development opportunities and severely constraining the hiring and removal of teachers.
School leaders are not set up for success. This was a particularly striking finding, given how influential school leaders can be - even in some of the deeply challenged school systems in which our Institute has worked. Principals and other school leaders repeatedly reported that they are held accountable for results that they have neither resources nor authority to influence. Almost all of them are demoralized and defensive as a result. They all referenced the collective bargaining agreement as impeding their ability to exercise leadership and oversight in their schools. At the same time, we encountered some judgments and attitudes from individual principals that, based on what we know about effective schools, do not support higher student outcomes.
Parents are marginalized and demoralized. In a system that is majority Latino, we expected to encounter multiple initiatives and programs that connected parents to the schools their children attend. That was simply not the case. The lack of parent input was striking on its own, but the widespread acceptance of this marginalization was of particular note.
So, where’s NMPED’s call to study APS by an external, objective source? When can we parents expect a full accounting of the practices and mismanagement of the district which captures roughly 1 in every 4 New Mexico children?
Given the current administration’s headlong sprint to hide school performance (not to mention filling leadership roles with former staffers of schools with serious issues), I don’t think we should expect any action any time soon.
Which is a shame. Our inability to grapple in an honest way with what ails APS is our biggest fault by far.