Amid the ongoing state takeover of the Providence Public School District, the new campus group Students for Educational Equity seeks to raise awareness about the district’s challenges and advocate for reform.
SEE launched this semester to advocate for educational equity in PPSD, the inadequacies of which were exposed in a blistering review by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Educational Policy in May 2019, The Herald previously reported. Through SEE, co-founders Ben Lipson ’22 and Ethan Pan ’22 also intend to support PPSD directly through mentorship programs geared toward middle school students.
The importance of creating this organization became exceedingly evident last spring, Lipson said. “After the Johns Hopkins report came out, it definitely sent a certain message and made the need for an organization like this even more clear,” he said.
To advocate for education equity, SEE hopes to partner with local teachers and students in middle schools. “For us, on top of the hill, at such as prestigious and privileged school, we do not have perfect knowledge about what educational equity looks like for any particular person or any particular community,” Pan said.“We think that direct communication with the community and community groups and members is really important.”
Lipson also described SEE’s goal to address a lack of awareness on campus about the current overhaul of PPSD. “There have been so many students on campus who I’ve spoken with who have no idea what the conditions of the schools are, right off of Brown’s campus,” Lipson said.
As part of their efforts to raise awareness, SEE urged students to sign a petition on the Main Green last week. The petition advocates for the community’s legal right to have a voice in education reform in PPSD, and to ensure accountability and transparency in the Rhode Island Department of Education’s plan for the district takeover.
The petition gained 283 student signatures and SEE plans to hand-deliver it to RIDE headquarters today at 3 p.m.
In the coming months, SEE plans to implement multiple programs focusing on mentorship and life skills. While they are still in the process of designing the specifics of their mentoring program, the student group wants to focus on middle school students because no group on campus exclusively targets middle school students. Additionally, “if you look at the data, over the course of middle school is where there’s the highest drop in proficiency,” said SEE member Leo Gordon ’23. “We thought that was a place where we could make a lot of impact.”
The student group also plans to help Providence students with their general study, organizational and scheduling skills to “bolster a richer academic performance,” Pan said. He added that SEE will work to expose students at an early stage to education options after high school, including four-year colleges, community colleges and vocational training.
Outside the classroom, they will teach students to “understand how to better navigate social situations and explore their passions,” Lipson added.
SEE also hopes to build relationships with other education-oriented advocacy and community groups in Providence. “We should be trying to partner with those community organizations to fight the fight for educational equity alongside them,” Lipson said. Acknowledging “great work that’s already being done through community organizations (and) through Brown,” Lipson explained that SEE aims “to implement programs where we see holes that haven’t been filled.”
In addition to working with other community groups, SEE wants to implement its programs in collaboration with teachers and students, Pan said.