Charter schools barely outperforming public schools in Providence

Are Charter Schools actually outperforming Providence Public Schools? The numbers say they are not, says Tom Hoffman, looking at the data.

Rhode Island News: Charter schools barely outperforming public schools in Providence

December 19, 2022, 12:56 pm

By Tom Hoffman

It is taken as a given by Rhode Island policy makers and media that charter schools in Providence, particularly the rapidly growing Achievement First district, dramatically outperform Providence Public School District schools (PPSD). 

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) recently released their school and district  report cards for the 2021-22 school year.  In these reports, each district and charter public school in the state receives an overall score from five to one stars, with 5 being the best.  These ratings incorporate RICAS achievement levels and growth, improvement in English language proficiency by multi-language learners, and other factors.

What do RIDE’s new report cards tell us about the presumed superiority of Achievement First and other charters in Providence?

By my count*, PPSD has seven district elementary schools receiving a three star rating exceeding all Providence based charters: 

  • George J. West, 
  • Reservoir Ave., 
  • Robert F. Kennedy, 
  • Robert L. Bailey, 
  • William D’Abate, and 
  • Times2 (a PPSD charter whose teachers work under the district’s contract with the Providence Teachers Unionaf.

No Achievement First elementary school, or any other Providence based charter elementary, scored above two stars.  Receiving two stars at the elementary level were Achievement First Illuminar, Achievement First Providence, Nuestro Mundo, Paul Cuffe, and Highlander.  Southside charter received one star.  

Ten more PPSD elementary schools matched the best charters at two stars.  Five had one star.

Among Providence middle schools, only the new Providence Preparatory Charter School achieved three stars, although that is attributable in part to having so few multi-language learners that their poor performance in that category did not count in their overall score.  

Both Achievement First Middle Schools scored two stars, along with Highlander and Paul Cuffee.  The Achievement First Middle Schools display some particular weakness, both finding themselves with the lowest rating for math achievement and with extremely low scores for growth in English language proficiency by multi-language learners.

PPSD’s middle schools continue to be a weak point in the district, with only Nathan Bishop Middle receiving two stars, and the rest receiving one.

I encourage the reader to explore the data further and draw their own conclusions.  

Tom Hoffman is a journalist, teacher and parent of two PPSD students.

Achievement First Iluminar Middle School English Language Proficiency

Achievement First Providence Middle School English Language Proficiency

* The option on RIDE’s site to export the dataset of accountability scores did not work for me, so I carefully noted the star ratings for each school by hand.