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RIDE Awarded $1 Million Grant to Prepare Providence Students for Algebra

Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support an “Algebra Readiness Course” for Multilingual Learners in Providence Middle Schools

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has announced that it is a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Balance the Equation – A Grand Challenge for Algebra I grant. This award supports initiatives that make algebra more accessible, relevant, and collaborative for learners who are Black, Latino, Multilingual Learners, and/or experiencing poverty. RIDE is one of 11 grantees out of an initial pool of 416 applications from organizations across 26 countries and is the only government agency that won a grant.

“We know that algebra tends to be a hurdle for students’ long-term success, and with this innovative program we are ensuring Rhode Island’s multilingual learners can get ahead,” said Commissioner Infante-Green. “As a former multilingual learner myself, I know that these students will succeed if they just have the right accessibility and supports—supports like the ones this grant provides. We are thrilled to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on this critical work to improve outcomes for our students.”

“This grant will allow us to better support our incredible multilingual students and ensure they have a strong foundation in mathematics,” said interim superintendent Javier Montañez. “Providence Public Schools recognizes that being multilingual is a strength, and we are fully committed to giving all our students the tools they need to succeed.”

Building on a model piloted through its PrepareRI initiative, RIDE will use the grant to create an “Algebra Readiness Course” to better prepare multilingual learners in Providence Public Schools for Algebra I. This course uses student-centered pedagogy and real-world examples to strengthen students’ pre-algebra skills while also promoting their social-emotional growth. A major focus of the grant is building teacher skills, and the grant will fund extensive professional development and coaching for teachers led by both national experts and local students.

The course and teacher training were designed through a “design thinking” process to better understand students’ needs. During the spring and summer, RIDE worked with Providence students and parents to learn more about how this course could best serve students, through partnerships with local nonprofits Young Voices and Parents Leading for Educational Equity. This feedback was incorporated into the program design. For example, Providence students will lead part of the teacher training themselves, to help the teachers better understand the perspective of Providence’s multilingual learners.

With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the summer pilot Algebra Readiness course will be expanded to a full academic semester and implemented in six Providence middle schools for the 2021-2022 school year. RIDE will continue improving the curriculum to be more culturally responsive and will provide in-depth professional development and coaching to help teachers build their skills to better support multilingual learners. These supports are designed using RIDE's Blueprint for Multilingual Learner Success, as well as the insights of parents and the multilingual learners themselves.

In addition to being offered in-school, the Algebra Readiness Course will be offered virtually through the All Course Network with the support of local community-based organization, College Crusade.
Partners in the development of this initiative included the Providence Public School District, WestEd Carnegie Math Pathways, English Learners Success Forum, Young Voices, and Parents Leading for Educational Equity.

To learn more about RIDE’s Readiness Project, please visit www.prepare-ri.org/readiness. To learn more about the Balance the Equation grant, please visit Balance the Equation Grand Challenge: Phase II (gatesfoundation.org).