Archives for category: Providence

Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat reports on a research study that concluded that most state takeovers of low-performing districts were unsuccessful. Local school boards, it was believed, must be the cause of low test scores because they lacked oversight.

The study was written by Beth E. Schueler and Joshua Bleiberg and released by the Annenberg Insttitute.

State officials have taken for granted that the state education department knows better than local school boards how to run school districts. Yet, as the study shows, most have either made no difference or failed. In most cases, the districts that were “taken over” consisted of mostly black and brown children, whose communities lose a democratic institution and as well as a route to political power.

Barnum writes:

Now, a new national study casts significant doubt on the idea that states, at least, are better positioned to run schools than locally elected officials. Overall, researchers found little evidence that districts see test scores rise as a result of being taken over. If anything, state control had slightly negative effects on students.

Frankly, it was always a silly idea to think that state education departments were staffed by top-flight educators. They are working in schools and districts. Most people who work in state education departments (and the U.S. Department of Education) are administrators and bureaucrats, not educators.

Barnum goes on to summarize the study:

The paper is the most comprehensive accounting to date of a strategy that has appealed to policymakers in many states but also brought fierce blowback. The study doesn’t suggest that takeovers never succeed on academic grounds — there are clearexamples where they have.

But the successes appear to be more exception than rule, and the uneven academic results bring into sharp relief the costs of state takeover: the loss of democratic institutions, disproportionately in Black communities.

“These policies are very harmful to communities in terms of their political power,” said Domingo Morel, a Rutgers University political scientist who has studied and criticized state takeovers. “And then what the state says is going to improve — this research shows it’s not doing that either.”

The new study focuses on the 35 school districts from across the country that were taken over by states between 2011 and 2016. These takeovers often happened in small cities and the vast majority of affected students were Black or Hispanic and from low-income families…

To find out what happened next, Schueler and coauthor Joshua Bleiberg of Brown University used national test score data to compare districts that were taken over to seemingly similar districts in the same state that retained local control.

In the first few years of the takeover, the schools generally saw dips in English test scores. By year four, there was no effect one way or the other. In math, there were no clear effects at all.“The punchline is, we really don’t see evidence that takeover is benefitting student outcomes, at least in the short term,” said Schueler.

Many states, Barnum reports, have cooled on the idea of state takeovers, although there are two big exceptions: Providence, Rhode Island, which has already fired its new superintendent because his deputy had a bad habit of massaging boys’ feet without their permission. And Texas is eager to take control of the Houston Independent School District because it has one high school with very low scores, and a disproportionately high number of students needing special education and living in poverty. The students in both districts are majority black and brown.

When Gina Raimondo was Governor of Rhode Island (she is now Biden’s Secretary of Commerce), she determined that the only way to fix the Providence schools was a state takeover. Raimondo, a former hedge fund manager, hired Angelica Infante-Green as state commissioner, although Green’s experience was limited to two years of Teach for America and a few years as a state bureaucrat (she was never a principal). Green promptly joined Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, whose members favor privatization and oppose unions.

Green hired Harrison Peters as superintendent of schools for the troubled Providence district. Peters hired ex-Tampa administrator Olayinka Alege to be the Providence network superintendent of secondary schools.

Then parents and students began to complain that Alege liked to massage their feet and pop their toes. More boys came forward to report toe-popping incidents. Alege said it was discipline, but some of the toe-popping occurred in private gyms.

Infante Green asked both Harrison Peters and Alege to resign. Peters leaves with a buyout of $170,000. Legislators are outraged that he wasn’t fired “for cause” without severance pay.

Senator Louis P. DiPalma, chairman of the Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee, called the Peters payout “unconscionable.”


I’m not a lawyer, but I think there could have been termination for cause,” he said. “And there should have been 11 months ago.”

DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat, noted that Peters on Monday told the committee he knew about news reports from 2009 that Alege had been accused of squeezing the toes of multiple boys in Florida – a practice referred to as “toe popping” – but Peters did not tell the hiring committee about that information.

Infante-Green is undeterred. The turnaround will continue.

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Rhode Island is a mess. Two years ago, the state took control of the Providence public schools. The Governor, Gina Raymond, is a former hedge funder and not a friend of public schools. She loves charter schools and welcomed them to her state. She is now Biden’s Commerce Secretary and has been succeeded by her Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, who is also a privatizer. The relatively new State Commissioner is Angelica Infante Green, who comes from Teach for America and had a desk job in the New York State Education Department. She is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. The Providence Teachers Union originally supported the state takeover, hoping that it would bring new resources to the schools. Instead, the takeover has meant disruption, turmoil, threats to teachers, and bitterness between the hard-charging, inexperienced State Commissioner and the teachers.

Mary Beth Calabro, the president of the Providence Teachers Union, has been a teacher for 24 years and president of the union for five years.

Less than two years later, and with the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowing nearly all of the takeover, Calabro now says that the relationship between the union and Infante-Green has deteriorated beyond repair, and she is asking state lawmakers to give control of the school district back to the city of Providence. She is also calling for Infante-Green and Superintendent Harrison Peters to be removed from their positions.

The union voted “no confidence” in both the state commissioner and the city superintendent. Calabro warned that the district was forcing teachers out with its hard-nosed tactics.

“We had hope that our state takeover here would provide the much-needed support, resources, and changes to help our students move forward,” Calabro said during a Monday press conference. “And we had hope that our educators’ collective skills, experience, and expertise would be seen as a welcome part of transforming out schools. Sadly, our hopes have died.”

The state commissioner made clear from the beginning that she wanted to control the union and its contract:

The most recent sticking point between the union and management has revolved around a provision in the current union contract that gives veteran teachers preference over newer teachers when it comes to hiring. Seniority tends to be a sacred cow for public employee unions, and the teachers have resisted changes that would give Infante-Green and Peters more control over the hiring process.

Both Infante-Green and Peters say they believe the Crowley Act, the state law that gave them the power to take control of the school district, allows them to make unilateral changes to the contract. But they fear that such a tactic would send the two sides to court, prolonging a series of negotiations that has already resulted in the city paying more than $1 million to lawyers advising management.

The Boston Globe turned to Brown University professor Kenneth Wong, who was previously known for praising mayoral control as the answer to urban school problems.

Kenneth Wong, an education policy expert and professor at Brown University who has advised city and state leaders on a wide range of school funding and reform initiatives over the past decade, said he sees the next few weeks as crucial to finding common ground.

Wong said the state deserves some credit for some initial progress during the takeover. The state has issued a clear set of goals for Providence schools, like raising the graduation rate from 73.6 percent in the 2018-19 school year to 89 percent by the 2024-25 school year, and slashing chronic absenteeism from 37 percent to 10 percent during the same period.

Frankly, it is hard to see why the state deserves any credit for setting ambitious goals when it has not supplied the means to reach them and is driving away experienced teachers. The one thing that we supposedly learned from the ambitious “national goals” of 1989 was that setting goals is easy, reaching them is hard.

Here is a piece of advice for Commissioner Infante-Green: No teachers, no education. A good leader provides encouragement to the troops; a bad leader puts them in the line of fire.

Meanwhile, the new Governor Dan McKee, aligned himself solidly with the Walton-funded parent group that wants more charter schools. Democrats in the legislature have lined up behind a three-year moratorium on charters, but McKee made clear that if the bill passes, he will veto it.

The article in the Providence Journal accepted at face value that the pro-charter lobby was led by ordinary parents, but Maurice Cunningham of the University of Massachusetts has demonstrated that the group called “Stop the Wait, Rhode Island” is funded by the Waltons and other Dark Money billionaires. And see here as well.

Governor McKee is doing the bidding of the Waltons of Arkansas.

Under the leadership of Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island is a very charter-friendly state. Raimondo was a venture capitalist before she entered politics. Her husband was TFA.

The welcome mat is out for charter schools in the state. The latest proposal for a new charter comes from Excel Academy in Boston.

Linda Borg of the Providence Journal writes:

PROVIDENCE — Critics of a new charter school application say the Boston-based school will draw millions of dollars away from the traditional public schools and, combined with a proposed expansion of Achievement First, create two parallel school systems.  

Excel Academy hopes to enroll 2,100 students in kindergarten through grade 12 by the time it reaches full capacity in 10 years — at a cost of $7.4 million in lost local revenues to the Providence school district.  

“Frankly, it could be the best school in the universe,”  said state Rep. Rebecca Kislak of Providence. “I want to know why the mayor signed off on more than 6,000 additional charter seats at Achievement First and Excel. It’s a quarter of Providence’s public school students. I am incredibly concerned about what happens to the 75% of students left in the district’s schools…”

Kislak said the charter application speaks to a larger concern. 

“As a parent, it feels to me like the policymakers, the governor, the mayor and the education commissioner, are giving up and saying, ‘We can’t fix your schools. The best we can do is let a quarter of our kids go to these other schools.’ ”

State Sen. Sam Bell, at a public hearing Monday on the Excel application, said the charter’s attendance and discipline problems amount to “child abuse.”

He noted language in the 2019-2020 student handbook that states: “All student absences, including illness, suspension, appointments, vacations, excessive incomplete days, etc., count as absences.” Any student who exceeds 15 absences in a school year may be held back, according to the handbook.

Bell said the student handbook listed 35 reasons to give demerits to students. Excel, like Achievement First, is a “no excuses” charter school. He wondered whether its punitive discipline violated state law.

The school objected to his criticism.

After Johns Hopkins University wrote a scathing critique of the Providence public schools, Governor Gina Raimondo and her new Commissioner of Education took control of the city’s schools. They just announced their turnaround plan and predicted that the low-performing schools of Providence would be on par with the top 25% of schools in the state in five years.

Among the major points of the plan:

It places enhanced focus on the performance of multilingual learners, who represent 34% of Providence students but have been shown to be missing out on an adequate education. Going forward, the district will place more attention on the recruitment of qualified English-as-a-second-language teachers, prioritize meeting the expectations laid out in a Department of Justice settlement over the district’s handling of multilingual learners and double the number of students served by bilingual programs over five years.

The district will renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement with the Providence Teachers Union to make it easier to fire low-performing teachers, hire the best candidates and require additional professional development days, according to the plan.

In order to better engage families, the district will implement a central phone number or text-messaging system for information-sharing that will be accessible 24/7, create a parent and students bill of rights and start a “parent academy” that will train families in how to best advocate for their children. Peters already announced this spring that he plans to completely restructure central office.

The plan also prioritizes hiring more teachers of color, who are underrepresented in Providence schools compared with the student population, in part by partnering with local colleges and universities to attract more diverse candidates to the profession.

The turnaround plan includes an extensive series of metrics that the district aims to hit within five years of implementation, such as increasing the percentage of students who are present for nearly the entire school year to 90% from its current baseline of 62.7%.

To ensure accountability, the district will post updates on the plan’s implementation on 4PVDKids.com and publish a yearly report on its progress.

Nothing was said about additional funding.

Angelica Infante-Green, the Commissioner of Education in Rhode Island, selected Harrison Peters as the takeover superintendent of Providence.

Peters announced his initial plans, which sound sensible, like implementing restorative justice in schools and assessing which schools need emergency repairs.

However, the article suggests that the big reform plan will be rolled out in April.

Keep an eye on this because Peters is already a member of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” where he has been designated a “future” chief. Chiefs for Change is an organization that adheres to Bush’s harsh ideas about testing, school closings, school report cards, and charter schools. And, of course, Jeb is one of the nation’s foremost advocates for vouchers.

Charter advocates like to caricature public schools negatively while presenting charter schools as invariably successful.

We know neither portrait is accurate.

Rhode Island’s new state commissioner has decided to close one of the state’s oldest charter schools, which has been failing for years.

The Academy for Career Exploration, which was one of Rhode Island’s first charter schools when it opened in 1997 as the Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy, informed the state Department of Education last month that it would close rather than craft a reform plan that might have kept it open.

The high school serves more than 200 students, but Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green had reservations about extending its charter because of low performance, including a zero percent proficiency rate in math. Nearly 38 percent of students were considered chronically absent last school year.

Anyone who claims that private management of schools is a panacea, especially for poor children, is either misguided or misleading.

Randi Weingarten will be in Providence on Saturday to discuss the role of teachers in the state takeover engineered by neoliberal Governor Gina Raimondo. The governor is openly hostile to teachers and unions and a major supporter of privately managed charter schools. She hired Angelica Infante-Green as State Commissioner, although Green (ex-TFA) was never a principal or superintendent. She is a member of Jeb Bush’s rightwing Chiefs for Change.

Randi said:

Unfortunately, the current Commissioner just continues to do the same things that Joe Klein or Michelle Rhee would do. Rather than work with teachers, they’ve set up other ‘process’ committees that will come out and say all the things are wrong, and what teachers should do in collective bargaining to fix it,” said Weingarten. “It’s not as though we haven’t seen this movie before — you have to roll up your sleeves and work together and you have to lift the morale. You don’t create a situation were every utterance the boss says divides people more and more…”

Weingarten said that she believed Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza had allowed the schools to fall into disrepair — but that takeover by Rhode Island education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green was not necessarily the answer.

“Here you had a situation where you had city control and the mayor was not giving the school the resources they need — just look at the shape they were in. He was not going to play that role, so this was viewed as no worse than already divesting democratic control,” said Weingarten. “Raimondo made a case that she wanted to make things better, but what you’re seeing already, and this is why I’m so proud of my local union, is that you have to change the normal typical tired conversation when a school system is not as good as you wish it would be…”

There are are a couple of other people who were really good who they were considering for superintendent and they didn’t pick them,” said Weingarten of Providence. “The Hopkins report said we have a problem where people feel alienated and discouraged — Hopkins also didn’t spend a lot of time in schools that were working. Since that time our union has come up with recommendations of what to do and meet people halfway.”

“We put out the recommendations that were never taken up. We did some of them ourselves. If this is urgent, and things must be solved right now — and we came up with recommendations in September, and then they do none of them — it gives pause to the urgency,” she said. “We tried to do a bunch of different things to respond to the Hopkins report and we’ve had a couple of big professional development seminars and what we’re hearing from the other side is just give up your contract.”

“So what is all of this, I’ve been through this with Rhee and Klein, and it seems like the same playbook — say things are as bad as you can instead of trying,” said Weingarten. “And in vilifying people you create demoralization — you create a vehicle by which parents say, why am I even here?”

“If you think a change agent is someone who thinks they can do things to teachers not with them, they might be a disruptor, but that’s not a change agent,” said Weingarten. “Schooling is about what happens [with] the connective tissue between teachers, school staff and kids. Kids have to trust teachers — and the community has to as well — and when you have someone who tries to come in from on high and chooses to vilify and not deal with issues, that’s not going to help make things better in schools.”

“How do you create a school where community and parents trust their teachers when the superintendent says they’re not to be trusted? It may get someone headlines — but it’s not the way,” she said.

To my knowledge, there has never been a successful state takeover. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority collapsed. Tennessee’s Educational Achievement Authority was a $100 million disaster.

The only districts that are targets for state takeovers are those with a black and brown majority. State officials think that eliminating democracy will fix the schools but it doesn’t and never has. It is a civics lesson to citizens and students of color that they are not capable of self-government.

Domingo Morel wrote a book called “Takeover” where he compntended that takeovers were about race and power, not education. Black and brown parents lose their political power and are subject to a colonial regime.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, is a specialist in the Destroy Public Education movement.

In this post, he describes the effort underway to take over the Providence public schools, a tactic that has not worked anywhere else.

He begins:

November 1, 2019, Angélica Infante-Green, Rhode Island’s new Commissioner of Education, announced the state was taking over Providence Public Schools. A neoliberal Democratic governor, a like minded mayor and the chamber of commerce appear to be instituting a school privatization agenda.

All power over schools in the state is held by the governor and mayors. Citizens do not have the right vote for local school leaders and school system leaders are subordinates of mayors. This structural weakness in Rhode Island has left public education vulnerable to the whims of a governor or mayor that does not respect professional educators and public education. [CORRECTION: A READER POINTED OUT THAT PROVIDENCE HAS AN APPOINTED SCHOOL BOARD, BUT OTHER LOCAL BOARDS ARE ELECTED.]

Governor Gina Raimondo holds the non-distinction of being the least popular governor in the nation, with a favorability rating of only 36%.

Gina attended private school while growing up in Providence. She studied economics at Harvard and sociology at Oxford University. Following Oxford she earned a juris doctorate from Yale Law..

Raimondo worked in Massachusetts at the venture capital firm Village Ventures which was backed by Bain Capital before she ran for to be Rhode Island State Treasurer in 2010. A puff piece in News Week describes how Gina defeated labor union opposition to roll back pension funds. The piece states, “The changes she persuaded the Democrat-controlled Legislature to pass over union opposition will save about $3 billion by delaying retirement, suspending cost-of-living increases and offering workers 401(k)-type savings plans.”

Her neoliberal pension reform plan matches the thinking of Charles Koch and the Cato Institute. The corporate supported American Legislative Exchange Council provides legal templates for reforming pension funds that look very much likeRaimondo’s Rhode Island pension reforms…

Raimondo is all in for charter schools. She especially admires Achievement First, a no-excuses charter chain based in Connecticut.

Raimondo selected a new state commissioner of education in the spring of 2019,

Angélica Infante-Green, who trained under Joel Klien and Michael Bloomberg in New York City. Infante-Green is a former Teach for America Corp member who began her career in New York City.

According to Angélica’s LinkedIn page, she taught at PS 4M, CS 77X, and South Park High School between 1994 and 1998. All of her administrative experience appears to revolve around bilingual education. She has never been a superintendent or a principal, which makes her an odd choice to lead Rhode Island’s schools.

However, she was in the first cohort of future chiefs at Jeb Bush’s Chief’s for Change. Their official comment on Angélica’s hiring came from Chief’s for Change Board member Pedro Martinez. He said, “We applaud Gov. Gina Raimondo for selecting a commissioner with a deep commitment to creating and expanding opportunities for all students.” Martinez is the Broad trained administrator who is instituting the billionaire financed portfolio model of education reform in San Antonio, Texas; a model that posits disruption as good and democracy as a hindrance.

Researchers from John Hopkins University conducted a review of Providence Public Schools. Their report begins,

“In May 2019, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy led a review of the Providence Public School District (PPSD). We did so at the invitation of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Commissioner, Ms. Angélica Infante-Green, with the support of Governor Gina Raimondo and Mayor Jorge Elorza. The Partnership for Rhode Island funded the review.”

Infante-Green officially assumed her position on April 29 and in May she already had arranged for corporate money to finance a study of PPSD.

The corporate money came from The Partnership for Rhode Island, a group of leading CEO’s in the state. The Governor and the Mayor supported the new Commissioner of Education’s invitation for the study to be done. When the report was released, media, politicians and business executive started vehemently denouncing PPSD as a dysfunctional failure….

An amazing fact:

The Johns Hopkins study was commissioned in May and presented in June and by July 19th Mayor Elorza officially petitioned the state to takeover PPSD.

What kind of a study is commissioned in May and presented in June?

 

 

 

 

This is the most curious news story of the week, written by the GoLocalProv News Team.”*

It says that the fate of the reform of the Providence public schools lies in the hands of the Providence Teachers Union, led by Maribeth Calabro; she, the story warns, may be able to veto the new state commissioner’s  plans to transform the Providence public schools. It does not mention that the state commissioner taught for two years in New York City as a fast-tracked Teach for America teacher, has no prior experience as either a school principal or superintendent and has kept her plans to transform the district a deep secret.

But here is where the article goes strange.

In 2011, newly-elected Providence Mayor Angel Taveras fired all the teachers in Providence — it was a big and bold decision, and it was reversed within days.

Not too many politicians, especially Democrats. will take on teachers unions in this country and especially in the heavily union-based Rhode Island.

The action in 2011 drew national attention. In a statement, the American Federation of Teachers national President Randi Weingarten called the decision “stunning,” especially given that the union and city “have been working collaboratively on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model.”

“We looked up ‘flexibility’ in the dictionary, and it does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers’ voice or rights,” said Weingarten, whose organization includes 1.5 million teachers and staff. “Mass firings, whether in one school or an entire district, are not fiscally or educationally sound.”

Well, the teachers union claim that Providence Schools were a ‘transformational model’ did not prove to be correct. Providence Schools are considered to be among the worst in America.

Infante-Green has said she believes she has the power to “break contracts.” 

The News Team seems to believe that firing all the teachers in the district is a “big and bold” idea that is worth a try. The mayor wanted to do it in 2011, but the union got in his way.

Apparently the News Team wants the state commissioner to fire all the teachers now and is egging her on to do so.

Exactly how will that improve the district?

Exactly how will that affect morale?

Who will want to teach in a district where teachers are disposable, like tissues?

Will Teach for America supply the new teachers after the existing workforce has been fired? Will they agree to stay longer than two years?

Where is the evidence that firing all the teachers is good for students?

*The original version of this post misattributed the article to the Providence Journal, which is owned by Gatehouse Media.