Rhode Island Charter STEM School Comes Under Fire

During a five-year review by the by the state’s Department of Education, the Providence-based K-12 Academy has been cited for numerous problems, including the failure to deliver a rigorous and well-designed selection of science courses.

by Linda Borg, The Providence Journal / February 19, 2019

(TNS) — A local charter school with STEM in its title has come under fire by the state Department of Education for not offering a rigorous and well-designed selection of science courses.

The acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

During the education department's exhaustive five-year review of Times2 STEM Academy, a kindergarten through grade 12 school, the agency found numerous problems with the state's second-oldest charter school, among them:

— Serious problems with the school's leadership by its executive director, Rudolph Moseley, and its board of directors, including a vote of no confidence last summer by the school's teachers.

— A lack of coherence in science courses, with limited science instruction in the elementary school.

— High school students with a free period who had nowhere to go and wound up in the hallway. Other classrooms didn't have an adult assigned.

— Low achievement and growth, with only 13 percent of students proficient in math and 20 percent proficient in English.

— Failure by the board and Mosley to routinely monitor the school's academic progress.

— Repeated complaints by parents and teachers that concerns are ignored by school leaders. The report said communication with parents is "inconsistent."

Because of these problems, the Rhode Island Department of Education issued Times2 a three-year license renewal in late January rather than a five-year one. The Providence charter has until June 30 to address the issues. If it doesn't, then RIDE will take the matter before the Council for Elementary and Secondary Education.

"A vote of no confidence grabs your attention in any school, especially a long-standing charter school," said Steve Osborne, RIDE's chief of innovation. "We have very serious concerns about school leadership."

Asked if RIDE had confidence in Moseley, Osborne said his agency has received more negative feedback about Times2 than it has from all of the other charter schools combined. The criticism ranges from a lack of communication between school leaders and staff to the way decisions are made on course changes and teaching responsibilities.

Charter schools are publicly funded but run by independent boards. They have greater flexibility than traditional public schools over such things as the length of the school day. Times2 is unusual because its teachers belong to the Providence Teachers Union.

No charter school has ever been closed in Rhode Island, although former education Commissioner Deborah Gist tried to shut down Highlander Charter School in Providence. Gist backed down after a huge outpouring of support from parents. Across the United States, dozens of charter schools have been closed, primarily for misuse of funds.

Gist also raised the bar on charter schools, asking them to reach a higher academic standard than their traditional public school peers.

Asked what it would take to close a charter in Rhode Island, Osborne said, "With a school such as Times2, renewal or closure may not [represent] the full range of options."

Moseley agrees that the school "has to make major changes to meet our mission," and said the board has been working on that for three years.

He said Times2 has begun to address some of RIDE's complaints, increasing the number of college courses available to high school students, reducing class size, adding a special education teacher and a social worker, and introducing after-school enrichment programs.

Times2, he said, has also developed a written explanation showing how parents can express their concerns.

"We're on notice," Moseley said. "We have a sense of urgency. At the same time, there are issues that we have already addressed."

But Ana Bazzaro, an outspoken critic with four nieces in the school, said Times2 won't change until Moseley is gone.

"If I was RIDE, I'd call into question his leadership," she said. "Every time I've gone to a school committee meeting, he has thrown other administrators under the bus. He has had his opportunity to show what he's capable of doing. He is not capable of turning the school around."

©2019 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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