Reforming The Providence School District

Case Summary

This case describes the situation facing Providence’s School District (A), which low-performing schools and increasing racial tensions have plagued. The district has just hired Susan Rosegrant to help lead the charge for reform. One of her first tasks is to develop a plan that allows her to build meaningful relationships with union officials, legislators, and essential school stakeholders. She must convince them of the value of using evidence-based education strategies—including data analysis and professional development—to improve student achievement.

Problem Statement

Winning Hearts and Minds: Reforming the Providence School District (A) was a struggling urban district with only 35 percent of the students reading at or above grade level. The community, led by Superintendent Walter Diggs and with the help of a consulting team led by Susan Rosegrant Kennedy, successfully and dramatically improved student achievement over the next decade. In this case study, students will learn how leadership, persistence, and patience can create meaningful change in an urban school system (Lavigne et al., 2021). The public school system of Providence did not receive adequate funding for years, resulting in dilapidated buildings and decaying infrastructure. An increasing number of middle and upper-class people and an influx of immigrants have resulted in a significant jump in school enrollment over the past decade. The city administration wants to increase the quality of education while decreasing its reliance on local taxes by focusing on a funding formula linking state aid to provincial revenues.

Situational Analysis

Rhode Island declared a state of emergency in response to poor academic performance, student discipline issues, and school safety concerns. The state-appointed Dr. Steven Lager (“Lager”), an education consultant for urban schools and assistant superintendent for human resource development for Philadelphia Public Schools, is its advisor to help reform Providence Public Schools (PPS). As part of his strategy, Lager pursued various initiatives such as establishing public/private partnerships with businesses and non-profits to improve student behavior and increase attendance rates, implementing effective leadership practices of installing early childhood programs, and growing staff development opportunities for teachers and principals, among many others.

The district is suffering from a large budget deficit and has been placed on a state watch due to low test scores and a lack of teacher effectiveness. The case studies recent reforms made by other urban school districts and recent developments in states’ educational accountability laws to determine what changes need to be made for Providence to get its finances under control and improve its academic stand so that voters will accept. With approximately 30,000 students, the Providence Public Schools are severely underfunded and unable to perform at levels even meeting state minimums. One school, in particular, Roger Williams Elementary, is faring particularly poorly, with low test scores and ineffective teachers. Recent developments in states’ educational accountability laws could provide essential clues on how Providence can fix its issues without alienating voters.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis assesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing a particular organization.


Strengths are the internal components that enable you to achieve your priorities. Students in Providence School District are among the strongest in reading, math, science, and physical fitness. The district offers many programs to help its students succeed, including after-school activities and Saturday school. Due to its strong reputation, the district draws students from many surrounding towns and has a waiting list for students wanting to attend one of its magnet schools. Providence public schools’ students perform above state averages on standardized tests: high graduation rates and low dropout rates.


Weaknesses are internal limitations that prevent you from achieving your objectives. The Providence School District has not effectively met the educational needs of its students and is highly decentralized, with little coordination between schools (Lavigne et al., 2021). The Providence School District (A) has weaknesses since it focuses on many problems over recent decades, including falling test scores and student achievement, inadequate facilities and an ageing school building, high teacher turnover rates, and a low-performing school board.


Opportunities are external factors that enable you to achieve something more successfully than otherwise possible. The Providence School District (A) is a place of opportunity, prosperity, and positive relationships. Whether a student or a parent, Providence has excellent opportunities for everyone, and people find themselves comfortable with the friendly neighbors, classes, and schools. From starting a school career to spending more time with families, opportunities are endless in Providence.


Threats are complementary factors that can impede your progress if not managed effectively. Providence Public Schools (A) faces many threats to the school district. It is the lowest-performing urban school district in New England, with 57% of students not meeting grade-level expectations on the MCAS. The MCAS test scores show that students are generally unprepared for college and careers. In addition to MCAS scores and graduation rates, the administration has been labeled “underperforming” for failing to meet proficiency standards in other areas, including attendance, discipline, and dropout rates. The threats facing our schools are natural, and without immediate action from state legislators, these numbers will continue to stay at an alarming rate.


Based on the foregoing research, it is recommended that citizens, business leaders, and educators be bold and innovative about what kinds of schools we want our children to attend. Winning Hearts and Minds explores how we can convince parents that school reform is in their best interests and that they should be part of this movement. A new superintendent and school board implemented a plan for change that used a three-year staffing process organized around school improvement teams (Lavigne et al., 2021). Johnson examines the model’s strengths and weaknesses, analyze its success or failure and recommends strategies for future reform efforts. The book includes an extensive bibliographic essay and addresses policy issues such as school choice, federal education programs, teacher quality, class size reduction, and open enrollment.

Action Steps

There have been strategies to help the Providence School District students improve performance. These strategies include involving other institutions and parents in systematic reform. There are plans to redesign all the secondary schools to create a conducive environment for learners. Providing solid and professional development for every member in the Providence School are some of the action steps to be taken. The author of Winning Hearts and Minds, Susan Rosegrant Kennedy, shows how outside funding can help their education system and how it will help students in their future lives. The author explains how to develop district goals and objectives, create new accountability systems, make changes through consistent communications, train teachers with incentives for success, involve parents in the process, and develop effective school leadership teams. This practical guide can help school districts around the country that are faced with improving their educational offerings with limited budgets and resources.


Lavigne, H., Caven, M., Bock, G., Zhang, X., & Braham, E. (2021). Exploring Implementation of Attendance Supports to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism in the Providence Public School District. REL 2021-099. Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands.