Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Bringing Hope High School into the Fold"

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

PROVIDENCE — The Providence School Department’s head of high schools testified before the state Department of Education Tuesday that while the total amount of common planning time has been cut at Hope High School, teachers will still have plenty of time to collaborate this year...

In their petition to the Education Department, students say that eliminating or reducing common planning time will dismantle many of the positive reforms that the high school has experienced since 2005, when the state Department of Education reorganized the once-failing school. The students are asking the state Department of Education to overturn the school district’s decision to move from a block schedule composed of four 90-minute periods to the six-period day adopted the rest of the high schools.

Meanwhile, the city on Friday plans to file a motion to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the district hasn’t violated any regulations. According to City Solicitor Anthony F. Cottone, Supt. Tom Brady has the discretionary authority to decide how much common planning time is appropriate for the system.

“No one is talking about eliminating common planning time,” Cottone said. “Hope was in a unique situation. It was a site-based school. All we’re doing is bringing Hope High School into the fold.”

First off, I hope Mr. Cottone gets his terminology more precise before filing the motion. According to the PPSD website, the Hope schools aren't "site-based," which is defined by the district's contract with the PTU. If they were, it wouldn't make their situation unique, as there are still, to the best of my knowledge, officially two site based high schools in the PPSD, which have been stripped of their contractual rights under without following the defined processes. So he'd better make sure he gets his terminology right if he's actually facing a hostile attorney.

This whole situation is putting RIDE into a deeper and deeper bind. Virtually everything they've done in the eventful past year has been based on the primacy of their Basic Education Plan. This is the first time someone is using it to force a move that the new educational establishment does not want -- maintaining improvements made by their predecessors. If the city's motion to dismiss wins out, RIDE's authority will be diminished. If RIDE rules for the students, their (apparent?) allies in the PPSD will be weakened. If RIDE rules for the PPSD, they undermine their own moral authority and would seem to weaken the legal keystone of their Basic Education Plan.

Making this all more awkward for everyone is that Hope's turnaround was written off as a loss in RIDE's RttT application, signed by the PPSD and PTU:

Specific measures of performance and success were not clearly established upon implementation. As a result, it was not possible to specifically identify the relationship between action steps and observed improvement outcomes. More rigorous monitoring is required to ensure accountability. The focus needed to sustain the work was not adequately created at the district level. The lack of adequate financial resources (to sustain job-embedded professional development and collaborative planning time), ongoing leadership coordination (between RIDE, the LEA, and the school) and mechanisms to ensure and strengthen buy-in from staff, the original design could not be sustained.

Of course, the original design not only could have been sustained, it still can be. RIDE is being handed a perfectly good justification for mandating that PPSD find "the focus needed to sustain the work."

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