Expansion of Advanced Course Offerings Announced

The Providence Public School Department will expand its advanced course offerings beginning with a pilot program in one high school and two middle schools this fall, it was announced on March 16 by Mayor Jorge Elorza and School Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi.   

The district will jumpstart its advanced course offerings through an innovative partnership with Mass Insight Education and the College Board that is designed to enhance the selection of Advanced Placement courses in the PPSD high schools, improve student success rates in those classes and bolster advanced coursework in middle school to prepare students for the more rigorous high school courses.

“I am excited that the Providence Public Schools are offering more rigorous middle and high school courses,” said Mayor Elorza. “Our children are not so much products of their environments as they are products of their expectations. These classes will not only challenge our students but will help prepare them for college and the workforce.”

“In order for Providence Schools to succeed in its primary mission of preparing our students to succeed in college and in their chosen careers, we must offer coursework that helps them prepare for the challenges of higher education and an increasingly competitive workforce,” said Supt. Lusi.

“One way in which we can help our students achieve our high standard of expectations is by expanding our offerings of Advanced Placement classes, as well as the foundational classes that precede those,” she added.

PPSD is partnering with Mass Insight Education and the College Board to provide academic services that increase student access to and achievement in highly rigorous, college-and-career ready coursework in the middle and high school grades.

Over the past six years, Mass Insight Education has established the largest AP/STEM program in Massachusetts, scaling from serving 10 schools and 1,500 students to over 70 schools and 10,000 students annually.  Through expanded student recruitment, teacher professional development, expanded learning time and test preparation, Mass Insight has doubled the number of students enrolling and passing AP in Massachusetts. Over the past six years, Mass Insight Education Partner Schools have increased the number of 3, 4 and 5 scores on AP math, science, and English.

As a result, African-American and Hispanic students in Mass Insight Education’s AP partner schools outperform other Massachusetts schools, earning 70 passing scores per 1000 students as compared to the Massachusetts’ average of 64 students per 1000 and the national average of 53 students per 1000 juniors/seniors enrolled in schools.

Further, Mass Insight has learned through its AP program that districts and schools that truly wish to maximize the opportunity of students to participate and succeed in advanced, college- and career-ready coursework must develop a grades 6-12 strategy for their faculty, students, and families. Therefore, for Fall 2015, Mass Insight will be selecting one PPSD high school for its Advanced Placement program and two PPSD middle schools for a middle grades partnership that aligns expectations, access, and instructional practice to ensure more students are provided access with highly rigorous curricula and instruction, focusing initially on mathematics.

The partnership will focus on four key areas.

  • Instructional leadership will be cultivated by helping teachers build a culture of high expectations in daily practice.
  • Teachers will have development opportunities in summer institutes and will have school-year support during common planning time.
  • The pursuit of student mastery of content will be supported by helping teachers increase their ability to push students, both individually and collectively, to meet their potential.
  • The program will bring middle- and high school-grades faculty together to align instruction so that students moving from 8th grade to 9th grade can hit the ground running with 9th grade content on the first day of school.

The lessons learned in these two pilot schools will be shared across other district middle schools, helping the district grow its improvements beyond these two schools.