As the state searches for the most effective pathways to education reform, momentum is building for a mayoral academy that would serve four communities and, supporters say, raise the learning bar for all public schools.
Opposition from Cranston school officials, teachers and taxpayers earlier this year helped kill a similar proposal that would have served that city alone. But an expanded proposal, also opposed by teachers’ unions, has the backing of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist and community leaders in the affected communities of Cranston, North Providence, Warwick and Providence.
The academy would consist of two public schools operated by the nonprofit Achievement First of New Haven, Conn. The schools would be located in Providence and serve that city and the other three communities.
In the first year, 2013-2014, enrollment would be 176 pupils in kindergarten and first grade. The next year, a second school would open and, by the fifth year, 920 students in K-Grade 5 would be enrolled in both. No school locations have been identified yet.
The Achievement First application was submitted Oct. 17 to the R.I. Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. The mayors of the four communities back the plan. Mayor Angel Taveras would chair the board that oversees the academies, which also would include representatives of the other three communities. School committees, unions and superintendents have no role in mayoral academies.
It was Gist who first suggested to Achievement First about two years ago that it apply for a charter in Rhode Island, she said.
“Based on the strong record of success that Achievement First has established through its charter public schools in Connecticut and New York, I believe an Achievement First mayoral academy in Providence will be an innovative, high-performing school that will improve the lives of its students and provide support and inspiration to other public schools as they move forward with dramatic improvements,” Gist said.
She and Chafee recently visited Amistad Academy, Achievement First’s flagship school in New Haven, Conn. (named for the slave ship involved in an 1839 mutiny), where Gist said, “we were both impressed by the high quality of teaching and learning, by the strong partnerships with local school districts, to improvement achievement for all and by the student engagement that we saw.”