Special Message from Mayor Angel Taveras: A Vision for Public Education in Providence
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Special Message from Mayor Angel Taveras: A Vision for Public Education in Providence

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dear Community Member:

I am pleased that Dr. Susan F. Lusi has been appointed as the Interim Superintendent of Providence Public Schools. As the current Superintendent of the Portsmouth School Department, Dr. Lusi is a highly-regarded educator and manager with strong local ties. I have every confidence that during the next year she will lead education reform and improve student outcomes in our school district.

As we begin this new era, I want to share with you my thoughts regarding the future of public education in Providence.

Education has played a pivotal role in my life. As a third grader at Mary Fogarty Elementary School, it was my teacher, Mrs. Dorothy Donaldson, who encouraged me to join a gifted program and chase my dream of becoming a lawyer. I know firsthand how a public education and quality teachers can change a life. It changed mine.

Over the last five months, I have had the honor of visiting many of our City's schools and I have seen that every day, in classrooms across the city, teachers inspire our students the same way that Mrs. Donaldson inspired me years ago.

All of our children deserve the educational opportunities that I had growing up in Providence. My number one priority as Mayor of Providence is to ensure that every child, regardless of life circumstance, receives an education that enables them to achieve their full potential.

Despite the numerous individual successes that I have seen in my visits to schools, it is clear that as a school district, we have a long way to go. It is unacceptable that in two years, nine Providence schools have been identified by the Rhode Island Department of Education as persistently low achieving. Our children deserve better.

I credit teachers, students, parents, and community members for the progress some schools are making. But no school in Providence should be persistently low achieving. Raising student achievement should be our highest priority. Our children need and deserve an education that will enable them to reach their full potential.

As Mayor, and as someone profoundly affected by public education, I want to share with parents, students, educators, and every resident of our City of my vision for Providence's public school system:

  • We must ensure that each and every child enters kindergarten ready to learn. I know firsthand the importance of early care and education opportunities such as Head Start. I will work with our local and Federal legislators, neighborhood community centers, and other providers to increase equitable access to high quality early childhood education.
  • We must have a highly effective teacher in front of every classroom. The most important school-based factor in student achievement is the teacher in front of the classroom. It is imperative that we work with teachers and administrators to ensure effective professional development throughout a teacher's career. Teachers, like all professionals, deserve meaningful evaluations that provide ongoing feedback and inform school staffing and compensation structures. As Mayor, I am committed to implementing a fair and rigorous teacher evaluation system that rewards effective teachers in innovative ways, provides additional supports to those who are struggling, and removes those who are ineffective.
  • We must ensure that Providence students are reading at or above grade level by the third grade. Research shows that third grade reading level is one of the key predictors of whether a student will graduate from high school or drop out. That is why my focus on early childhood education is so important.
  • We must work to increase high school graduation rates and the rate of students who go on to college. In this 21st century global economy, knowledge is more important than ever and post-secondary education is critical to young people's success.
  • We must ensure that our City provides a broad selection of outstanding educational opportunities for children and families. Simply put, parents and families deserve more high quality options. This is why I support developing a portfolio of schools that address a range of student interests and needs, including flexible school schedules with more learning time, smaller learning communities, strong charter public schools, and partnerships with our arts, health, and technology sectors.
  • We must redouble our efforts to provide more opportunities for quality after school and summer programming. Research shows that approximately half of the achievement gap can be explained by summer learning loss. Our students need more opportunities in their out-of-school time.
  • We must promote parental, community, and industry involvement in our schools. We must develop stronger channels of communication between schools, parents and community organizations and opportunities for robust business partnerships. Creating the kind of change we need requires the hard work of stakeholders throughout our City. Providing an outstanding education is a collaborative team effort. The district cannot do it alone. Schools cannot do it alone. Teachers cannot do it alone. That is why I have asked the Children and Youth Cabinet to build on our community's assets and wraparound services, such as Full-Service Community Schools, to support academic and social outcomes for every child from cradle to college to career. A newly-formed Education Opportunity Working Group serves as a committee of the Children and Youth Cabinet to advance these goals.

It is a challenging time. In Boston, New York, Detroit, Kansas City, and other major cities, municipalities have been forced to close schools to address massive budget deficits. The crisis that Providence faces is real and formidable and has required drastic actions on multiple fronts. Closing schools is one the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.

As we move forward, I have every confidence that we can make Providence schools the envy of American public education. When I visit schools, I see myself in the children I meet. I sat in the chairs where they now sit and I take my responsibility for their future seriously. Working to improve their education will be a priority for me and my administration every single day that I am Mayor.

I have charged the Education Opportunity Working Group with translating this vision into recommended actions for my administration. The Education Opportunity Working Group will engage with educators, community members, and other stakeholders throughout the summer to hear your thoughts. As we turn our attention to the future, I will also work with the School Board and the community to recruit a new permanent Superintendent who will lead the next generation of transformation of Providence's Public Schools.

Hard work lies ahead. However, I am committed to making sure that when I leave the Mayor's office, our schools are vastly improved. I hope you will join us as we work to transform education in Providence. I know I cannot do it without you.

Please feel free to contact my education team at educationprov@providenceri.com with your thoughts and opinions on ways to move Providence education forward. Thank you.

Mayor Angel Taveras

Spanish translation here | En Espanol aqui

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