PPSD’s turnaround plan includes performance goals, expanding training for teachers

PROVIDENCE – The new action plan to turnaround the Providence Public School District was released by the district and the R.I. Department of Education Tuesday.

The release comes almost a year to the day in which a scathing report by Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy painted a bleak picture for the troubled district. The report, among other several findings, noted that students were struggling to learn in schools that are run ineffectively, as well as being staffed by demoralized teachers

Among its planned changes, the action plan calls for creating pathways to expand training and professional development for teachers, the establishment of five-year goals for the district, calls for the preparation of plans to upgrade school facilities and includes recommendations from stakeholders.

The state took over PPSD in November 2019 and also brought on Harrison Peters as Providence’s new superintendent back in late January.

- Advertisement -

Both Peters and R.I. Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green said the 64-page plan, titled “Turning Hope into Results,” will serve as a guide through the first phase of improving the district over the next five years where all students can receive a “world-class education.” They also said both the state and the city are about to take a “major step” in transformational change of a district that has suffered “from decades of neglect and poor performance.”

“We must not and will not fail another generation of students and families,” Peters and Infante-Green said.

Read the full turnaround action plan here.

The plan aims to close equity gaps so every child in the district has access to an education, and increased proficiency will be achieved through “high expectations, heightened standards and quality instruction.” Students and families will also be given more choices for learning and students will be placed “in the best possible learning environment” to achieve success in the classrooms, the plan said.

PPSD plans to grow its workforce by expanding its training and professional development for teachers, school leaders and staff. The district intends to invest in partnerships with local higher-education institutes to develop initiatives to help attract more people of color into the teaching profession.

There will also be a “high-priority focus” on hiring certified multilingual learner educators as required by PPSD’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“As a result, Providence teachers will enter the classroom confident they have preparation, training and ongoing support to succeed,” the plan states, “and school leaders will be better positioned to lead with greater decision-making authority with the resources necessary to reach their school accountability goals.”

The plan also notes various benchmarks and goals for PPSD to achieve by the 2024-25 academic year. Among them is having at least half or two-thirds of third-graders and eighth-graders meet or exceed expectations in math and English on the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System test.

The district, according to the plan, also is striving to have 90% of all students present for 90% of the school year – whereas 62% attended most of the 2018-19 school year in Providence. PPSD also wants to increase the number of students enrolled in a 2-star or higher school from 52% noted in 2018-19 to 100% by 2024-25, and wants 89% of students to graduate within four years by 2024-25, as well.

Along with changes to the district’s central office, the plan stated that the district will establish a new collective bargaining agreement with the teacher’s union and negotiate a “more flexible personnel decision process,” as well as work to remove “other barriers created by the contract.”

“It will include the ability to hire the best candidates for positions and dismiss the lowest performers, highlight additional professional development days to support staff development … and help the district create the necessary environment for student learning,” the report states.

PPSD will also create a spending plan that will realign the budget, people and central office functions in addition to being aligned with PPSD’s priorities.

A plan to upgrade school facilities in the city so students can learn in “safe and modern” buildings with access to 21st century technology will be released by PPSD, the plan noted, but doesn’t state when facilities plan will be unveiled. Building infrastructure was among the several deficiencies that the Johns Hopkins report noted a year ago about PPSD.

While change is “never easy,” the plan said that it is designed to provide both RIDE and PPSD the blueprint for a “remarkable transformative process” that embraces “systemic reforms addressing the concerns of the Providence community.”

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.