February 29, 2016

Cicilline and Whitehouse: U.S. Department of Education Should Use Providence’s After-School Success as National Model

Providence, RI – Today, alongside one of the leading after-school programs in the country and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Congressman David Cicilline and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse highlighted Rhode Island’s success in fostering partnerships between schools and after-school programs and called on the U.S. Department of Education to use that success as a model when implementing the nation’s new K-12 education law.  Cicilline and Whitehouse outlined their message to the federal education agency in a letter to Acting Secretary of Education John King. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which overhauls federal elementary and secondary education policy, was signed into law in December and is now in the process of implementation.  The new law boosts support for after-school programs like the Providence After School Alliance, which serves over 2,000 area students and has been cited as a national leader in after-school programming.   

Cicilline, who formed PASA while serving as Mayor of Providence, drafted the ESSA provisions to promote partnerships between school districts and after-school programs like PASA.  Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced similar legislation in the Senate and worked on the bicameral panel that negotiated the law’s final text to include the after-school provisions.

“It is critical for students to have access to the tools they need, both during and after school hours,” said Mayor Elorza. “I would like to congratulate Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline on their successful efforts to add Community Partnership Provisions to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.”

“The Providence After School Alliance has built a high quality after school system by learning what works from sister cities all over the country that are partners with Every Hour Counts and have been supported by the Wallace Foundation.  PASA’s middle school system called the AfterZone has over 70 hands on learning programs that offer a youth-centered experience that helps them find their passions and hone their skills. Graduates look back on their quality experiences, younger siblings look forward to it, our principals and faculty partners would be bereft without the AfterZone.  In Providence we can reach young people at scale with our quality system and have been able to share what is working with over 40 cities around the country who want to reach more middle school youth.  What is so exciting about the new legislation is that this movement might help transform school systems across the country to partner with expanded learning leaders in their communities to better prepare the next generation,” said Hillary Salmons, PASA’s Executive Director. 

The full text of the letter follows:

February 29, 2016

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Acting Secretary King:

Thank you for your recent appearances before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee.  As you saw there is keen interest in the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  We write urging your continued collaboration with Congress on implementation, and specifically to call your attention to particular provisions we authored, which remain priorities for us going forward.

During the reauthorization of ESEA we worked with a Rhode Island community group that acts as a local intermediary in support of after school programming, Providence After School Alliance (PASA)—a city-wide, public-private partnership with the Mayor and Superintendent leveraging resources and community partnerships to improve schools and student learning.  Using PASA’s example, we authored the provisions in Title I requiring that intermediary organizations be included in the creation and implementation of Title I programs, and allowing for the establishment of high-quality, community-based partnerships and the development of expanded learning programming as part of school improvement and ongoing support.

As the authors of these provisions, we strongly encourage the Department to implement them in a manner that will help ensure that states and local districts develop meaningful and helpful partnerships with community-based and intermediary organizations.  As such we encourage the Department to define the term “intermediary organization” as “a nonprofit organization that has expertise in training, forging public-private partnerships, systems development, capacity-building, improving scalability, evaluation, and the effective use of data to improve the progress of students, schools and other educational institutions, and education programs”—a definition which also appears in our bill, the Community Partnerships in Education Act.  

We encourage the Department to provide guidance to states outlining best practices for effective partnerships, and emphasizing that including intermediaries and community organizations when assisting struggling schools can help provide expertise and increase capacity.  Additionally, as the Department implements the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program, we encourage guidance clarifying that collaboration to expand STEM education opportunities can include expanded learning programming and that states and districts can use the expertise of intermediary and community-based organizations in these activities.  We also encourage the Department to provide  flexibility to states to meet the requirement under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that they create a list of external organizations that can help local communities implement grants made under this program—it should be clear that these partners are potential resources and not mandatory partners.

We strongly support highly effective community partnerships in ESSA.  We hope that states and districts will be empowered to create and expand partnerships that increase their capacity and broaden their expertise, in order to generate greater educational opportunity for all students.  We look forward to working closely with your staff over the upcoming months to ensure that these issues are addressed in rules and guidance put out by your Department.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch regarding these, or any other, matters we many collaborate on.  


Sheldon Whitehouse                                                   David N. Cicilline

United States Senator                                                 Member of Congress


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921