Superintendent Maher provided a candid overview of the state of Providence public schools and mapped out his goals in the next several years. The superintendent spoke of three areas of focus: culturally relevant content, personalized learning, and school-based decision making. Students need to feel recognized and accepted. In addition, their principals need to be empowered in order to empower teachers, who in turn empower students.
On Wednesday, June 28, our 12th Brown University Urban Education Policy cohort gathered at the Providence Biltmore for a UEP dinner featuring keynote remarks by Providence Public School District Superintendent Chris Maher.
Superintendent Maher articulated that even in school settings that may be adverse to change, there are educators addressing problems and creating opportunities for dialogue to increase opportunity and find solutions.
As an example, DelSesto Middle School was once the worst school in Rhode Island, but by using personalized learning and providing an identity for students it has improved measurably. DelSesto is using a Facebook Summit platform to draw together the greater community, as the best people to make decisions for kids are those closest to the kids, and the school is tracking student growth.
This isn’t about technology or tests, Superintendent Maher stated; it’s about individualizing education. Giving an African-American student a book with an African-American protagonist will create more interest and connection with the material for that student.
Providence is one of very few districts in the country doing this kind of personalized learning.