PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Education is seeking to extend its deadline to hit a number of goals in the Providence Public School turnaround plan by two more years, according to materials provided to lawmakers ahead of a hearing Monday.
The original turnaround plan, released in June 2020, set dozens of goals for the state-run district to hit in the 2024-25 school year, ranging from math and English proficiency, to graduation rates and attendance.
But a new list of metrics provided to the Senate Oversight Committee ahead of a 5:30 p.m. hearing Monday stretches those same goals out to the 2026-27 school year.
Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said the change is due the disruption in schooling during the pandemic.
“We have a new baseline,” Infante-Green said in a live interview on 12 News at 4. “We took over November , and the pandemic hit in March . The turnaround plan has not been really executed the way that it’s supposed to be.”
In one example, the original turnaround plan aimed to increase the number of students meeting expectations on the 3rd-grade math assessment from 18% to 55% of students by the 2024-25 school year. But that number has decreased to 10% of 3rd-graders, according to the updated list of metrics.
The new plans aims to have just 32% of students meeting 3rd-grade math expectations by 2024-25, and pushes the 55% goal out to the 2026-27 school year.
The metrics are not just about test scores. A goal to have 90% of students present at school for 90% of the school year, also originally set for 2024-25, is now revised to 70% of students for that year, with the 90% goal pushed to the 2026-27 school year.
The state currently has control of the district until 2025, and would need to extend the takeover to continue running Providence schools until 2027.
“It wasn’t meant to just go five years,” Infante-Green said. “It was five years and then we would reevaluate. We want to make sure that everything we’re putting in place takes hold.”
Shortly after her appearance on 12 News, Infante-Green testified at the 5:30 p.m. hearing along with acting Superintendent Javier Montañez and other district leaders. The committee also invited members of the public and the leaders of several parent and student groups to testify about how the state takeover is going so far.
State Sen. Lou DiPalma, the Oversight Committee chair, had asked at a previous hearing for state leaders to provide annual metrics for the takeover, since the original plan only included baseline numbers and the final goals.
The new annual metrics provided Monday show that many of the numbers have dropped below the baseline during the pandemic, while others remained steady and some increased.
The number of four-year-olds enrolled in high-quality pre-K, for example, has increased from less than 1% in 2018 to 9% this year, according to the new metrics. But the document still pushes the deadline to hit 20% from the original 2024-25 school year to 2026-27.
After the new metrics were presented, DiPalma asked the commissioner to be clear about what they meant.
“We shouldn’t expect PPSD to be given back to Providence in June of . Is that a safe assessment?” DiPalma asked Infante-Green.
“Yes, that is accurate,” she said.
“I think that is going to be eye-opening for some folks tonight,” DiPalma said.
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Providence School Board member Ty’Relle Stephens was among those who spoke out against the extension Monday night.
“Instead of an extension of two years, we must see results in two years,” Stephens said. “I think that within the next year or two, if the district continues to underperform, it must end.”
Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence, last year introduced a bill that would have ended the takeover in June 2023, with the possibility of a six-month extension if “substantial progress” is made. The bill was held for further study.
The state takeover has had mixed reviews thus far, with some calling for the schools to be given back to the city sooner rather than later.
The Providence Teachers Union (PTU) has labelled the state takeover a “failure” and questions whether Infante-Green has the authority to continue to maintain control of the district for the additional time.
In an interview Monday evening, PTU president Maribeth Calabro said the takeover extension gives the appearance of a double standard since students and teachers didn’t get a pandemic reprieve.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” she said. “If it wasn’t good enough for us to get a COVID pass for RICAS and other assessments last year, then why is it good enough for them to get a COVID pass this year?”
Mayor Jorge Elorza has criticized the state for not making more substantial changes to the teachers union contract. A spokesperson for the mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.
State leaders have pointed to the poor academic and structural conditions of the schools, detailed in a 2019 report, as evidence they needed to intervene.