Rhode Island Education Commissioner Infante-Green Discusses Charter Schools, Declining Enrollment, and Providence’s Future

In Rhode Island’s largest district, Angélica Infante-Green, the state education Commissioner, is nearing a decision after five years whether Providence schools have made sufficient progress to be freed from state oversight.

An independent review of the system has been initiated by Infante-Green through the Massachusetts-based consulting firm, SchoolWorks. Initially plagued by deteriorating school conditions and substandard instruction levels identified by Johns Hopkins University researchers in 2019, the district required extensive improvements, which were somewhat impeded by the pandemic.

“We don’t want to regress on the progress achieved,” emphasized Infante-Green in a conversation with The 74.

Furthermore, Providence has experienced a significant 17% decline in enrollment since state intervention, as reported in a December document from a state policy group.

Resistance to school closures or consolidations is prevalent in Providence, exemplified by the school board’s opposition to Infante-Green’s proposal to merge 360 High School with another institution on the same premises. Founded in 2015 with support from a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, 360 High School offers students a more intimate and individualized educational setting, leading families to contest the closure due to concerns over language services for English learners.

However, Infante-Green stressed the necessity of students having access to critical programs that prepare them for college, which were lacking in 360 High School.

In a multifaceted interview with The 74, Infante-Green also addressed the state’s endeavors to reduce reliance on federal relief funds and assess the impact of the additional funding.

In a notable step, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona appointed Angélica Infante-Green to the National Assessment Governing Board in October. According to Scott Marion, a fellow board member and the director of the Center for Assessment, state and local education leaders offer a pragmatic perspective often missing in research and testing realms.

Amidst impending fiscal challenges after the expiration of federal aid and declining enrollment, concerns loom over the financial stability of school districts, anticipating budget cuts and staff reductions, potentially impacting critical educational support services.

Infante-Green’s proactive approach involves monitoring the utilization and effectiveness of relief funds to enhance learning outcomes and educational quality, ensuring that resources are directed towards essential programs and support services.

Efforts to evaluate the impact of federal funds and measure the effectiveness of initiatives remain paramount for ensuring continued progress and addressing the evolving educational landscape.

The evolving education recovery landscape requires tailored interventions to address specific student needs and advance learning outcomes, aligning with the state’s commitment to fostering educational excellence and equity.

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