What do Providence schools need? The school board apparently thinks it’s high priced consultants.
The Providence School Board is taking some heat after they unanimously voted to give a $5 million contract to a consultant to help turn around three low performing schools in Providence.
Jeffrey Hernandez, the CEO of National Academic Education Partners Inc., has been hired to help improve three Providence High Schools but reports indicate that he was highly criticized by teachers and parents for his work in a Florida school district.
School Board President Keith Oliveira is defending the hire. According to Oliveira, Hernandez was hired to implement a curriculum in Florida schools and his role in Providence will be different.
That’s right, teachers, there’s no money for your pension, our school buildings are crumbling, but there’s plenty of money for corporate proponents of high-stakes testing (update below). And “highly criticized” is an understatement. The Palm Beach Post called Hernandez “the most despised person in the Palm Beach County school system.” But, hey, this time will be different!
It’s not clear how a change of role will make a difference. Hernandez was criticized for his “dictatorial” style, “one-size-fits-all” academic initiatives, and “Orwellian control over classrooms”:
The switch to “centralized” control, with Hernandez calling the shots, backfired because Hernandez was unable to gain the respect of most administrators and educators.
School Board members heard reports that Hernandez was condescending and annoyed principals by wasting their time in lengthy meetings where Hernandez refused feedback.
A so-called reformer who won’t listen, eh? Sounds a bit familiar. But more to the point, test zealots like Hernandez are what progressive like me have been warning about, especially for inner city schools (Projo link no longer available).
“At worst, schools have become little more than test-prep factories,” says Robert Schaeffer, executive director of the National Centerfor Fair and Open Testing, a group critical of standardized tests. “Entire curriculums are wrapped around test prep, narrowing the curriculum.”
And, he says, the children who most need a rich education — those who are poor, urban or English language learners — often get little more than “a thin gruel” of test preparation in their classes, a far cry from the intellectually stimulating coursework offered by private schools, which do very little standardized testing.
It remains to be seen what Hernandez will propose for these Providence schools, but his record in Florida of “testing students every three weeks” doesn’t bode well. And given this guy’s record, one can only hope he meets the same opposition here that he met in Florida.
Update: 4/2/2012 Note that because these funds are federal, the question is only of the Hobson’s choice faced by districts with struggling schools of buckets of cash for “testing on steriods” or none. This isn’t an issue directly affecting city budgets.