PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) went before the House Committee on Education on Wednesday to provide an update on a number of statewide efforts and issues, most notably, the Providence turnaround plan.
Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green was joined by the newly-appointed superintendent of Providence Public Schools Javier Montañez and Victor Capellan, senior advisor to the commissioner.
A big topic of discussion was teacher recruitment and retention, and RIDE outlined its plan to put out a request for proposals on building a statewide job platform that would both promote the profession of teaching and market Rhode Island as a good place to live in hopes to attract educators.
The platform would serve as a one-stop-shop for all careers in education in the state, including administrative, teaching, and even custodial positions.
One way RIDE suggested districts can help fill open positions is by posting positions earlier in the year, unlike in late spring or summer, as Infante-Green said most districts do. She said neighboring states often beat Rhode Island to the punch in that area, along with offering more competitive salaries.
Montañez said Providence has started hiring teachers in early March rather than in April and has, in turn, filled 16-17 hard-to-fill positions for the next school year.
When it comes to incentives, Infante-Green highlighted several that the state can offer educators to not only make them want to stay here to teach but also to move here, including bonuses and paying off debts.
“We can also look at helping to pay off some of the loans that teachers have. I think that’s also an incentive that we can look at investing in as a state because I think we’re gonna have to really compete with Massachusetts and Connecticut in a very different way,” Infante-Green said.
As for the turnaround, Capellan reviewed the plan that was released in 2020 that was put together by a team of community members and said it’s used to guide the district every day.
“The one thing that I can say continues to be true, regardless of who’s in what position, regardless of what has happened, is that goal of hope to results and the turnaround action plan continues to be the guiding factor for our work,” Capellan said.
Infante-Green said there’s a lot of work to do, and it’s “going to take time” because the turnaround of the district has been 30 years in the making.
In the presentation, metrics were shared regarding the estimated proficiency levels of students in the coming years. RIDE estimates that 55% of third graders will meet math expectations and 67% will meet ELA expectations by the 2026-27 school year.
Lawmakers asked if those goals are attainable, and RIDE leaders responded by saying the metrics look at growth over time, and aim for students to grow 1-2 grade levels each year.
In Providence, they said, some elementary students are hitting that mark but not consistently, and at the high school level, they’re making less than a year’s growth each school year.
“They realize that this is going to be a very methodical, and not a quick process, but they’ve set goals, and [I’m] very pleased that they’re putting a high school curriculum in place that’s standard-based,” Committee chairman Rep. Joe McNamara said.
McNamara said while he’s pleased, he’d like to see the achievements happen faster.
“I would like to see faster progress, but steady increments of achievement when students can excel or achieve two years growth in one year, I think any parent, any student would be pleased with that,” he said. “I just hope that they can reach those particular metrics.”