Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Statement from Last Thursday's AF Hearing

The most important point about the Achievement First Mayoral Academy application is that its due date is still two and a half months in the future. The first Achievement First school would open in the 2013-2014 school year. Applications for 2013-2014 charters are not due until March 1 of next year.

Yet, here we all are, taking an evening out of the busy holiday season. You might think, "Well, at least since this is the second time this application has been submitted to and accepted by RIDE at least it should be thorough and complete."

Unfortunately, it is not in several key areas, and as such should be sent back by the Board of Regents for further revision before the March 1 deadline. This can be done with no change in the implementation timeline.

This application makes no serious attempt to show need from each community. It offers some data concerning Providence, but no data whatsoever demonstrating need from Warwick, Cranston, or North Providence individually, or data from any individual school in those districts. They provide a single table of aggregated numbers from the three districts. It took them more work to hide the individual district data than it would have taken them to simply present it.

A regional school should demonstrate need in each community.

This application does not describe the schools' proposed enrollment process. I began asking Mayor Taveras's office about whether enrollments would be offered to each district equally as is done at Blackstone Valley Prep and is required by Rhode Island law.

Mayor Taveras's education advisor, Angela Romans, could not answer that question, about the Mayor's own application, and instead referred the question to RIDE, who provided an initial, vaguely worded response.

This is remarkable. Why is the department receiving this application answering questions on behalf of the applicant? What was their answer based on? Certainly not the application I have a copy of. I followed up with Ms. Romans and emailed an inquiry to RIDE las night. I have received no clarification.

But no further explanation should be necessary. The enrollment process is fundamental to the very idea of charter schools. It should be clearly explained in this application. It cannot be evaluated otherwise.

This is a Potemkin application. It is a facade. It is not the real plan. The public doesn't know what RIDE knows. We cannot comment on secrets. The Board of Regents must enforce real transparency and honesty and send this application back.

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