Dear Members of the Brown Community,
Brown has a longstanding commitment to supporting K-12 education through teaching, research, volunteer efforts and a range of programs, activities and initiatives. This commitment is demonstrated particularly through the University’s relationship with the Providence Public School District (PPSD). Through this decades-long partnership, Brown has sought to improve educational outcomes and provide high-impact experiences for Providence youth.
In July 2020, we announced that Brown had fully funded a $10 million commitment to endow the University’s Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence. The fund generates approximately $400,000 to $500,000 each year to directly support the needs of students in Providence public schools. I’m writing today to share that a $474,000 disbursement from the Fund will provide critical support for teaching and learning in Providence schools.
Importantly, the initiatives that will be funded were developed through a community process to ensure continued alignment with the school district’s priorities. The initiatives arise from recommendations from the joint Public Education Committee (PEC) Brown established last year of Brown and Providence community members to provide oversight and make recommendations for the best use of the funds, as well as community input from the district’s Community Design Teams, which informed this transformational work.
The enhanced financial support for Providence schools, which will directly benefit Providence students, comes at a pivotal moment for the district. City and state educational leaders have intensified focus on improving student learning outcomes in accordance with the district’s Turnaround Action Plan (TAP). The plan was developed following a 2019 external review of Providence schools by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy that identified challenges to student learning.
All of the funded initiatives support the district’s four key pillars of success identified in the TAP: developing and instituting a coherent academic vision; recruiting, developing and retaining world-class talent; strengthening support for all students; and empowering principals, teachers, parents and the community to make decisions based on the needs of students.
Specifically, this year’s allocation will support the following:
1. Equity and Justice Work:
- Development, design and facilitation of a culturally responsive district-wide education framework that affirms and celebrates students’ diverse identities and supports critical connection building among students from varied backgrounds.
- Training in culturally responsive practices for teachers and incentives to promote more social and emotional supports for students in an effort to increase student motivation.
- Establishment of a leadership program offering mentoring, tutoring and development for male students and staff of color.
- Stipends to students, family, and community members who participate in framework engagement efforts.
2. High School Redesign:
- Establishment of an International Baccalaureate program at Hope High School. Funding will support one year of expenses, including start-up costs and defray the costs of required staff professional development.
3. Data & Analytics Capacity:
- Development of a data dashboard allowing PPSD to track key metrics, processes and systems alignment. This newly designed system will ensure transparent data, which will inform initiatives, is accessible across the district.
- Stipends to teachers serving as data leads at each district elementary school. This role will help guide each school in a strategic approach to improvement in metrics identified in the Turnaround Action Plan.
4. Employee Appreciation:
- Support for enhancements in collaborative workplace culture for PPSD administrators, teachers and staff with funding recognizing valuable contributions.
PROCESS FOR ARRIVING AT THE FUNDING DECISIONS
Established in 2007, the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence was born out of the 2006 report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. The report recommended that one of a number of actions the University could undertake to recognize its historic ties to slavery was to support a quality education for the children of Providence. Each year, approximately $400,000 to $500,000 from this fund will go to directly supporting the needs of students in Providence public schools in alignment with PPSD’s highest priorities.
To guide this work and ensure continued alignment with district priorities, last year Brown established the Public Education Committee to provide oversight and make recommendations for the best use of the funds. The committee includes campus and community stakeholders, as well as Brown faculty, staff, students and alumni. Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and PPSD Turnaround Superintendent Harrison Peters serve as ex officio non-voting members.
This Committee, aided by engagement with city educational leaders, quickly mobilized to identify specific, focused ways in which Brown can support the district’s efforts to improve the quality of public education broadly, and more specifically, the district’s Turnaround Action Plan. The disbursement for the 2021-22 academic year that the Committee has recommended — and I have approved — will provide critical support for teaching and learning in Providence schools.
IMPLEMENTATION THROUGH ENGAGEMENT
As a next step, the district will initiate implementation of these efforts through continued community engagement. For example, the work to create a leadership program for male students of color will be guided by a steering committee of school leaders, staff, teachers and students. Design of the International Baccalaureate program at Hope High School will be informed by focus group meetings with community members. And development of the data dashboard will rely on feedback from students, staff and community members who will provide guidance and feedback throughout the design process.
This work will build on years of programming Brown has supported for Providence schools. Reflecting the principles underlying the establishment of the Fund, Brown has devoted University resources to providing high-impact experiences for Providence youth, supporting initiatives to improve educational outcomes and enhancing students’ access to Brown summer programs. Faculty, staff and students also annually contribute thousands of volunteer hours to support Providence students.
Recently, Brown has supported initiatives including delivering internet access to 900 student households, making it possible for schoolchildren to study remotely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the University is in the final stages of a transformational renovation of the Hope High School Library and Media Center. This project, which will provide a 21st century learning environment for students, was part of the University’s immediate funding commitments announced last year.
While these efforts provide important financial resources for Providence, Brown is also committed to coordinating closely to with local school leaders to support K-12 education statewide through education, research and volunteer efforts. For example, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform is working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Education, PPSD and other Rhode Island school districts to create long-term partnerships that improve the quality of education. Recently, the Annenberg Institute, in partnership with the nonprofit Results for America, launched the EdResearch for Recovery Project, assisting districts with research-based advice on distance learning and supporting at-risk students. Meanwhile, faculty, staff and students are engaged with numerous programs and volunteer activities that support local schools and their students through efforts organized by the Swearer Center, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, various academic departments and student organizations.
Every student in Providence deserves access to a quality education that provides a foundation for lifetime success, no matter what path they might choose. The disbursements from the fund this year — as well as sustained disbursements in future years — will support this goal.
I want to thank the members of the Public Education Committee for their commitment to this work, as well as PPSD Turnaround Superintendent Harrison Peters and Mayor Jorge O. Elorza for their continued leadership and partnership. I look forward to the work Brown, PPSD and the Providence community will continue to do together to help students thrive.
Christina H. Paxson