No Poker Face in Providence

Erika Sanzi:

Angelica Infante-Green, Rhode Island’s new education commissioner, will never be known for her poker face and at a time like the one we currently face in Providence, that is actually a comfort. The pain is real. The failure is real. And it’s important for parents and community members to see disgust, disbelief and determination on the face of the education commissioner as she listens to them talk about the desperation they feel over the system that promised—and failed— to educate their children. The million dollar question is what will that determination look like in terms of action moving forward and will the deeply-entrenched impediments to change finally topple over in favor of the educational needs of children?

Angelica Infante-Green tells the brutal truths about Providence Schools to at the final community forum.
In her opening remarks at the last of eight open community forums, Infante-Green describes feeling physically ill after reading the now notorious Johns Hopkins report about Providence Schools. She cites a 9th grade class using a 4th grade curriculum, refers to testimony of graduates who spent two full years in remedial classes after being handed a high school diploma, and reflects on the many parents who have told her that the Providence schools failed them as students and now they are watching it fail their own children.

“It turns my stomach”, she says.

And if the look on her face during the four plus hours of testimony during that final community conversation is any indication, her stomach is still turning.

“It’s painful to hear that our children are failing. I am an addict in recovery. I want my kids to be able to be educated in Providence but it’s not working,” says one mother. Standing at the microphone in the front of the room, arms wide open as her voice gets louder, she continues: “my daughter doesn’t know her times tables. How did she get passed to the 5th grade? My daughter can’t even read.”

This mother is far from alone. As the 93-page report tells us —and Infante-Green reiterates in her powerpoint at the start of each community forum—only 14 percent of Providence’s students read at grade level. And that number drops to 10 percent when we are talking about math.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic