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What They're Saying: Community Leaders React to Johns Hopkins Report on Providence Public Schools

PROVIDENCE, RI- Following the release of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy's review of the Providence Public School District, education and community leaders are speaking out about the need to take urgent action. Here's what they're saying:

"To say I am outraged, disturbed, horrified and sad at these findings would be an understatement. Moving forward, it is imperative that students are at the center of all our decisions. We must act with a sense of urgency for the betterment of the lives of each child in the Providence Public Schools. Failure to act would be a dereliction of duty."

-Barbara Cottam, Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education

"Being part of this review process was eye-opening and heartbreaking, but essential. It's clear we aren't preparing enough children for the next grade, let alone college. I'm committed to supporting our state and city leaders in raising our expectations so every Providence student graduates ready to attend and succeed in postsecondary education."

-Frank Sánchez, President of Rhode Island College

"The conditions of Providence Public schools is not a unique occurrence in urban education. It is the result of prolonged and uncheck systemic inequities. What is revealed in this report is not "new" information for those of us who work hand and hand with educators, parents, students and social justice advocates. We know what the barriers are. We know that there exists deep racial bias in staff, low expectations for students of color and those with disabilities, and policies that are prohibitive in practice; even if they are generated in good nature. What we see here, as I have seen in many other urban districts; is that what's best for the adults is prioritized over what's best for students. The hope, however, is that it doesn't have to stay this way. Within Providence, there are countless educators, administrators, parents and most importantly students who will not rest until those inequities are addressed. They show up every day and they keep fighting. They may be few, but they are mighty. Those are the pebbles that will cause an avalanche, that will knock down this mountain. It can be done. "

-Dr. Barbara Mullen, Co-Director of the Learning Leader Network for the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity

"We hope that the Johns Hopkins review begins an honest conversation about the needs of Providence Public School students. This report should send shock waves across the state and serve as a call-to-action for sweeping changes. We insist on raising our expectations, supporting our teachers, prioritizing school construction and hope to hear a long-term vision that will deliver the promise of public education. We thank the Governor, Mayor and Commissioner for their collaboration and stand ready to support tough and necessary decisions."

-Tom Giordano, Executive Director of the Partnership for Rhode Island

"The report is heartbreaking, and demands immediate action on behalf of the City's students, families, and educators. We all share in responsibility. A plan to move forward cannot come soon enough for the children enrolled in Providence schools now, and the ones who will be in the future. It's evident that nothing less than widespread reform will result in the systemic, permanent change needed for Providence to fulfill its obligation to students."

-Neil Steinberg, President & CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation

"When 86 percent of students are not proficient in English Language Arts, that's not a problem-it is a crisis. Success depends on holding high expectations, using consistent high-quality curriculum and materials, and offering students appropriate challenge, rigor, and support. There is enormous potential in Providence-for students, teachers, and the community-and there is hope. However, in order to reach that potential, the situation in Providence schools requires urgent and drastic action. Our students deserve this."

-Tracy Lafreniere, 2016 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year

"It's impossible not to feel devastated reading this new report. But at the same time, I also feel hope that we have the right, committed leaders in place to take action. Angelica Infante-Green's entire career has prepared her to join with the Governor and Mayor and lead in this moment. She knows how to bring parents into this process to make them feel powerful - parents that, like her own mother, want their children to benefit from the life-changing value of a good education. This report is a call to Rhode Islanders to rise up and demand more - to create the change these students deserve."

-Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer, COO of Chiefs for Change

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