PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — State officials have released the list of schools visited by researchers from Johns Hopkins University as they compiled a damning report on the physical and academic condition of Providence Schools.
The list, which the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) previously declined to release, was obtained by Target 12 through an Access to Public Records Act request. The release comes a day after The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board lambasted Providence leaders over the report under the headline “An Education Horror Show.”
Hopkins researchers did not name the schools in the report, only listing them as Schools A–L, and randomized the list to protect the identities of the schools.
What remains a mystery is which school on the newly released list corresponds to which unnamed school mentioned in the report, including the so-called “worst” one that left researchers in tears.
The schools that were visited were Pleasant View Elementary School, Gilbert Stuart Middle School, Martin Luther King Elementary School, Carl G. Lauro Elementary School, Nathanael Greene Middle School, E-Cubed Academy, DelSesto Middle School, Asa Messer Elementary School, Hope High School, Mt. Pleasant High School, Providence Career and Technical Academy, and Roger Williams Middle School.
RIDE said the Hopkins team did not divulge how they lettered and randomized the schools, which means the new list cannot be cross-referenced with the report. David Steiner, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, also declined to identify the schools to Target 12.
He said the review team wanted to keep the names of the schools private in order to elicit honest responses from the teachers and administrators they interviewed.
“In certain cases, people were making very frank remarks, and we don’t want to associate those remarks with a particular school,” Steiner said. However, he agreed that the list of schools visited should be public.
Steiner said RIDE determined which schools the Hopkins researchers should visit, but his team “checked carefully” to make sure they were “not unrepresentative” of Providence schools as a whole.
The list includes four elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools in the Providence Public School District. Researchers did not visit any public charter schools.
While the report overall is a damning indictment of Providence Public Schools, it doesn’t mean all 12 schools on the list are on equal footing. While some of the schools in the report are described as in “dire condition,” with brown water pouring from taps and the smell of urine emanating from a physical therapy room, others fare much better. One school, labeled only as “School E,” was described as being in “top condition.”
Overall, the report said, “very little visible student learning was going on in the majority of classroom and schools we visited – most especially in the middle and high schools.”
The city is planning $20 million in improvements to school buildings this summer, according to Victor Morente, Mayor Jorge Elorza’s press secretary. The work including electrical upgrades, fire upgrades, security improvements and new roofs.
Morente said roofs were recently replaced at the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex, Classical High School and Hope High School.
Hope High is also slated for radiator improvements. Vartan Gregorian Elementary School, which was not visited by the researchers, is slated for a roof replacement, classroom reconstruction, vent replacements, lighting and fire alarm replacement and exterior and masonry repairs.
Martin Luther King Elementary is slated to get repairs to the entrance doors over the summer break, and Carl Lauro School is getting a new rooftop for its “cafetorium.”
A statewide report released in 2017, called the Jacobs Report, also shed light on the physical conditions of some of the schools visited for the Hopkins report. The Jacobs team assigned each school a “facility condition index,” comparing the cost of repairs over five years to the cost of building a new school. A score of 6% to 10% was considered “good,” while any school above 65% was considered a candidate for replacement.
None of the schools visited by the Hopkins researchers had scores above the 65% threshold in the Jacobs report, though one came close: Pleasant View Elementary, at 64%, which was categorized as “very poor.” The Jacobs report said the school required $11 million in repairs at the time, and would cost $25 million to replace.
Hope High’s condition was also listed as “very poor” in the Jacobs report, with $37 million in repairs needed in 2017, as was Carl G. Lauro Elementary School, with $23 million in repairs needed at the time.
Six of the schools visited by the Hopkins researchers were categorized as “poor” in the Jacobs report, two were “below average,” and only one was considered “good”: Providence Career and Technical Academy, or PCTA, which had a score of 9.5% and only needed $4 million in repairs in 2017.
The Hopkins report was requested by RIDE’s new commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, and paid for privately by the Partnership for Rhode Island, a group of CEOs that has been generally supportive of Gov. Gina Raimondo.
Infante-Green and Elorza have held a number of well-attended forums for parents and students since the report was released, but have not yet announced any substantive plans for how to improve the schools. The final two forums are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday.
Infante-Green is expected to recommend next steps later in the summer.