Providence Superintendent Evans’ Plan
I’ll readily admit that I don’t know much about the state of Providence schools other than what I get from the news, but it seems that Providence Superintendent of Schools Donnie Evans has some good ideas.
Evans announced a series of new initiatives that address his strategic plan, Realizing the Dream, which calls for improving student achievement, creating safe, caring schools, improving public trust and making sure that school programs are cost-effective.
The new programs include:
•Opening more alternative schools for students who aren’t making it in a traditional setting. This fall, the school department opened a small alternative high school for ninth-graders who were in danger of dropping out. Evans will now hire a consultant to develop a charter-school prototype, with the goal of opening at least one alternative school in September 2008.
“Unfortunately,” Evans said, “our dropout rate is 29 percent. In addition, too many students fail or find themselves suspended or expelled because our schools didn’t motivate them or otherwise meet their academic or social needs.”
•Adopting school uniforms in all elementary and middle schools. According to Evans, research shows that in schools where uniforms are required, behavior problems decline and students are more likely to identify with their school. Although not a mandate, Evans said he will strongly urge every principal to implement school uniforms.
•Creating a district call center to improve communication between parents and staff, including expanded translation services for families who don’t speak English as their first language.
•Introducing reading classes and adding 20 reading teachers at the middle school level. Five of the district’s seven middle schools are classified by the state as in need of improvement. In January, state education Commissioner Peter McWalters told Evans to come up with a plan for improving the district’s lowest-performing schools or face possible state intervention.
•Introducing a new math curriculum for struggling students in elementary and middle school, as well as offering a new algebra readiness program for eighth-graders in low-performing schools.
Evans also said that he was forming a couple of task forces to find out why special-education students and students with limited English proficiency continue to be the lowest achievers in the district. “I have enough experience,” Evans said, “to know that we can and must do much, much better.”
Evans is concerned that his plans will be limited by the reduction in school funding included in the recent budget, however. And negotiations are ongoing over the Providence Teachers’ contract. Perhaps some savings could be found there?