Schools look to university to guide equity overhaul

Rhode Island's department of education took over Providence public schools in 2019
By: | February 16, 2021
Roger Williams University will expand on its K-12 initiative to design and track new equity goals for Providence Public Schools (photo taken pre-COVID).Roger Williams University will expand on its K-12 initiative to design and track new equity goals for Providence Public Schools (photo taken pre-COVID).

A local university will guide Providence Public School District in developing a community-driven scorecard to measure progress toward equity in education.

Rhode Island’s department of education took over the district in 2019 following reports that identified a range of deficiencies, including a failure to serves English language learners adequately.

“In Rhode Island, Black and Latinx youth, in particular, are encountering disproportionately unequal outcomes in our public schools,” said Keith Catone, executive director of Roger Williams University’s Center for Youth and Community Leadership in Education, or CYCLE. “The state takeover of the Providence Public School District creates additional structural challenges for the community’s voice to be heard on how they’d like their schools to improve.”

However, students and parents have also seen the takeover as an opportunity to get involved in reshaping Providence public schools, Catone said.


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CYCLE has launched the Schools and Communities Organizing for Racial Equity (SCORE) project to bring together a consortium that will develop equity-oriented priorities and measures to drive improvement in the Providence Public School District. Through a year-long process, the project’s research team will design a “SCOREcard” to evaluate the district’s progress on equity initiatives that have been prioritized by the community.

CYCLE will collaborate with the Social Policy Hub for Equity Research in Education at Rhode Island College, Parents Leading for Educational Equity, and Providence high school students.

“For the past two decades, school accountability has operated as a top-down enterprise,” Catone said. “We want to flip accountability on its head, so that it is community-driven.”

The project, which could guide development of a national equity scorecard, is being funded by more than $500,000 in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The group plans to share its scorecard with the school district this fall and then work with school officials to implement during the 2021-22 school year. The team will document the design process along the way.

“This community-centered process could serve as an example for how other communities, in Rhode Island and nationally, might rethink educational equity and accountability for school improvement,” Catone said.


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