"Transforming the lowest performing schools has been the most challenging area for us," Commissioner Gist noted. "In a state like Rhode Island, where the number of low-performing schools is concentrated with districts with political challenges, reform becomes difficult."
This is a willful misdiagnosis of Rhode Island's problems. There is no political crisis in Providence, at least from the school reformer's point of view. We've had two strongly pro-reform mayors in a row with entirely mayor-appointed boards. The union has at best staged a controlled retreat. The only real political battles have been to determine who is the most aggressive reformer.
The Central Falls schools have been funded and controlled by the state for years and the city government is now controlled by a strongly pro-reform state-appointed receiver. Those are political conditions favorable to reform (of the type that Gist favors, ofc).
The real problem is that low-performing schools are concentrated (not coincidentally) in districts with high rates of poverty, insufficient local tax bases, and inadequate funding.