The Amazing Story of an Inner City School
The Providence Effect
Review by Ross Anthony
THEATRICAL release: September 25, 2009
Major US cities have trouble funding and running a full set of successful schools. Politicians and administrators have a whole litany of excuses for failing to offer quality education in each of its schools. Tired of the excuses, Paul Joseph Adams III turned a Westside Chicago school around, 100% of its graduating class has been accepted to colleges for nearly three decades.
This documentary explores Providence St. Mel's unique success. Teachers, administrators, and Paul himself are all interviewed. Yes, it’s a tad patronizing, I'd be surprised if the school doesn't show this reel to prospective parents. However, not only does the doc take on some touchy educational topics with audacity, but simply put, I found it inspiring. Anyone interested in education knows that good news is in short supply.
Richard Bach said, "Argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours." Too many people in power have become complacent with the massive failure of our inner city public schools. Adams finds this unacceptable. He turned those words into action, proving that success could be had in these troubled neighborhoods. It's only fair to attribute some of PSM's success to its private status, its ability to kick out students, and its freedom from the public system bureaucracy. For this reason, I was fascinated by PSM's bold move to take control of a failed public school - a charter experiment, run by PSM and its principles.
The documentary introduces us to Providence Englewood Charter School boasting that preliminary findings are promising. Wanting to know more, I researched a bit on line: According to: www.greatschools.net, By Grade 6 the new charter's 2008 ISAT test scores exceeded state averages. YES!
Also, of "shake up the old system" importance is the concept of in-person teacher checking, keeping them just as accountable as students. The documentary also brings awareness to another ignored obstacle: principals crippled by bureaucracy. Paul Adams wants us to ask ourselves, "Which is more important, filling out forms and attending meetings … or the success of the students?" I found the DVD a refreshing reminder to "Put the kids first."
At Providence St. Mel, we believe.
We believe in the creation of inspired lives
produced by the miracle of hard work.
We are not frightened by the challenges of reality,
but believe that we can change our
conception of this world and our place within it.
So we work, plan, build, and dream - in that order.
We believe that one must earn the right to dream.
Our talent, discipline, and integrity will be our contribution to a new world.
Because we believe that we can take this place, this time, and this people,
and make a better place, a better time, and a better people.
With God's help, we will either find a way or make one.
Providence St. Mel Website
-- Books by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony --
The Providence Effect. Copyright © 2009.
Directed by Rollin Binzer. Produced by Tom Hurvis & Rollin at Dinosaurs of the Future.