What is a mayoral academy?
Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) is a nonprofit organization that designs, advocates for, and oversees a state wide network of high-performing regional public schools.
Mayoral academies are a new form of public charter schools sponsored by Rhode Island mayors and administered by charter school operators with records of success raising student achievement and opportunity, regardless of the socio-economic backgrounds of their students. These schools work to close achievement gaps and provide every child the opportunity to live a productive life and fully participate in our democratic society.
Why do we need charter schools?
Charter schools have the benefit of starting from scratch. They do not have to transform a challenged school into a good one; instead, they design and build a program and a strong school culture from the outset. To build a successful program, it is vital that leaders of charter schools have the freedom to run their schools in alignment with their mission to generate the best student outcomes. In charter schools, leaders may enact innovative practices, such as: structuring their schedule in terms of longer days and years, selecting and developing curricula that directly responds to their student's needs, and building a meaningful professional development program for their teachers. They can hire faculty and staff who are wholly committed to the school's vision and approach, and in most charter schools, come to individual agreements on compensation with their teachers. If necessary, they have the ability to change staff. Charter school leaders may adjust as they implement new approaches and build on what works to generate the best student outcomes. If the charter school does not reach the goals stated in the approved charter application, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has the authority to revoke the charter and close the school. In short: charter schools have increased autonomy in exchange for increased accountability.
Are mayoral academies the same as charter schools?
A mayoral academy is a type of Rhode Island charter school. Each mayoral academy is:
Mayoral academies benefit from even more autonomy to hire a staff that will best fit the mission and structure of the school, and to craft agreements for each staff member based on the needs of the school and educators.
Is there a demand for mayoral academies?
Rhode Island parents increasingly recognize the shortcomings of the state’s public school system and seek out new alternatives for their children’s education. Current charter schools are in high demand with long waiting lists. In the spring of 2007, 2,552 students applied for only 400 available spots in the state’s 11 charter schools, a more than 6-to-1 ratio. These figures make clear Rhode Island residents are demanding high-quality public school options.
Does it cost money to attend a mayoral academy?
No. Mayoral academies provide a comprehensive, free, excellent public educational program. At some mayoral academies, students are required to wear uniforms. Financial support is available to families if needed to cover the cost of uniforms. In addition, mayoral academies contract with local districts and third parties to provide transportation to and from mayoral academies (with routes and times determined by districts and transportation providers).
How do mayoral academies serve students with special needs?
Mayoral academies enroll students through an open lottery and seek to meet the needs of all their students. Students requiring special education services have all necessary accommodations and modifications of curriculum to ensure they meet the high expectations of all mayoral academies.
At mayoral academies, English Language Learner (ELL) services are completely distinct from special education services and no child will be assigned to special education simply because of their ELL status. Students who qualify for both ELL and special education will receive the full benefit of both individually tailored programs.
How do mayoral academies serve English Language Learners (ELLs)?
Mayoral academies are committed to ensuring success for ELL students. Our extended school day and extended school year benefit ELL students through dramatically increased opportunities to read, write, and speak in English. Mayoral academy teachers have the same high expectations for ELL students as they do for every other student in their classrooms. What is more, ELL students receive individualized support in their efforts to reach and surpass these standards. This approach is consistent with our mission of ensuring academic success for all students.
Our education program will comply with all applicable laws and legal precedents specifically related to ELLs including, but not limited to, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, and Castaneda v. Pickard (1981). ELLs are included in every aspect of the educational programming at Mayoral Academies.
How do mayoral academies schools engage families?
We recognize and embrace that mayoral academy students may have significant adults in their lives who may or may not include biological parents. Therefore, we focus on family versus parental engagement realizing that aunts, grandparents, or elder cousins, in addition to other family members, may be active participants in the academic and social lives of our students. Further, RIMA engages families to become advocates, not only for their own child, but for children throughout the state of Rhode Island.
At mayoral academies, family communication and involvement are fundamental to building a positive school culture and achieving our ambitious mission for Rhode Island children, families, and educators. Mayoral academies communicate with families via multiple approaches, including:
Each mayoral academy has a formal body by which family members engage in discussions about how to improve and support their schools. With the support of RIMA staff, this group coordinates ongoing seminars for parents. These bilingual seminars encourage parents and other family members to discuss common challenges in raising children including academic topics such as, “How to Help with Reading at Home,” social topics such as, “My Child is Scared to Speak in Class,” and policy-related topics such as, “Why Should My Family Care about the RI State Funding Formula?” Each seminar and meeting is carefully planned and executed to fully engage the breadth and diversity of families represented at mayoral academies.