Duncan weighs in on RI’s Race to the Top programs and Providence schools

May 25, 2012

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Photo by Ralph Alswang.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’s happy with the way Rhode Island is using its $75 million Race to the Top Grant. The state has been working on several major initiatives including annual teacher evaluations and curriculum reviews.

Duncan says his staff will sit down with state education officials next week to review their progress.

“Overall we’ve been very pleased with the progress and the commitment to reform in Rhode Island, and we know that work has not always been easy,” Duncan said in a phone interview with RIPR, adding “our hope has always been that work in Rhode Island could have national implications, and I continue to be very hopeful about that.”

When it comes to Providence, where school officials are working on a unique collaboration with teachers’ union officials to turnaround several low performing schools, Duncan says the district still has a ways to go.

“I think they’ve gone through an extraordinarily difficult time but have come out the back end,” Duncan said, referring to threats of mass teacher firings and the departure of Providence Superintendent Tom Brady.

“People say if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger, and I think they have come out of this stronger,” Duncan continued. “Great new superintendent, great union leader, strong board, and I’m very hopeful that Providence with some stability can significantly improve student achievement.”

Duncan met with Providence’s new superintendent, Susan Lusi, and teachers’ union leaders during a conference this week. The event highlighted districts where management and teachers’ unions are collaborating on reforms aimed at raising student achievement