New direction needed for Providence [RI] schools

By Henry Marciano
Letters, The Providence Journal
Friday, June 17, 2005

As a resident, teacher, and taxpayer in Providence, I feel compelled to voice my opinion on why our schools are failing. The educational policies initiated by Diana Lam and carried out by her prot?g?, Melody Johnson, have been totally bankrupt.

Their joint leadership promised to raise standardized test scores and improve educational instruction. On the contrary, neither has happened. They both relied on an educational methodology known as the Principles of Learning developed by the University of Pittsburgh. This costly methodology was promoted as an elixir to improve these ills. Quite frankly, the only thing that improved were the salaries of these two individuals and the consulting fees which the University of Pittsburgh managed to exploit.

I offer the following data as proof. The current drop- out rate for high school students is almost 38 percent. At Hope High the rate is over 50 percent. The average seventh grade student reads at a third grade level. Should we continue with their educational policies?

While the Providence School Department talks about improving educational standards, it does the opposite by continuing the practice of social promotion. Small wonder that Johnny still can't read! Until our elected officials step up to the plate and outlaw this practice, true educational reform will not happen.

A new educational direction is what is needed. The next superintendent should have a vision and a comprehensive plan to meet the educational needs of all our students. He or she should plan to remain on the job long enough to see that real progress is achieved.

The Providence School Department should not be used as a training ground for transient superintendents who merely seek to reap financial gain and numerous perks while the coffers of our city are emptied. No amount of spin by the public relations wing of the Providence School Department can change the public's negative perception of our schools. What is needed instead is hard work and dedication from our teachers and school administrators.

For too long, the cognitive elite have run our schools and drowned out the voices of common sense and reason. As a result, our schools have failed to provide a good education to the children of our city.

Mayor [David N.] Cicilline promised to make education his top priority. If he really means what he says, then it is time for him to listen to the true shareholders in the educational process -- namely the students, parents and teachers.

We cannot remain as pawns forever. It is time for our collective voices to be heard and take back our schools.

Henry Marciano
Providence, RI

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