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RIDE Names State’s Best & Worst Schools: Educator Leaders React

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Education Commissioner Deborah Gist on Friday released reports cards for every school in the state, indentifying the schools by a set of six classifications, with the lowest-performing schools set for state intervention.

The classifications were made possible the Rhode Island Accountability System, which is designed to recognize specific problems in low-achieving schools to enable school improvement. The U.S. Department of Education approved the Rhode Island Accountability System on May 29.

The new accountability system enables the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) to: focus on achievement gaps, diagnose school performance by identifying specific shortcomings and achievements at each school, provide each school with the specific support or intervention needed to improve student achievement and to close achievement gaps, and provide these schools with the ability to select interventions that respond to their context and their needs.

“The new accountability system will enable us to give our schools the support they need to overcome challenges and to improve student achievement,” said Governor Lincoln D. Chafee. “This is an important step forward as we work to provide a world-class education for all Rhode Island students.”

RIDE based the 2012 school classifications on: proficiency, distinction, participation in state assessments, gap-closing to serve students with disabilities and English Learners, progress in approaching its 2017 targets, students’ growth in K-8 schools, high schools’ annual improvement and high schools’ achievement of graduation-rate goals. Using these measures, RIDE placed each school into one of six classifications: Commended, Leading, Typical, Warning, Focus, or Priority.

“With our new system of accountability, support, and intervention, we are using multiple criteria to measure school performance, and we will work with low-achieving schools to focus on their specific problems and to develop and implement plans for school improvement,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We look forward to using our new accountability system as we work together with students, teachers, and school leaders to accelerate all Rhode Island schools toward greatness.”

The classifications identify 26 schools (9 percent of classified schools) as Commended Schools. Commended Schools, the highest-achieving schools in the state, are recognized because of either high performance or significant progress. Four of the commended schools are in the Chariho Regional District; two each are in Barrington, Cranston, East Greenwich, and Scituate; one each is in Bristol Warren, Cumberland, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, North Providence, Providence, Smithfield, South Kingstown, and Tiverton; and five are charter public schools.

The 2012 Classifications also identify 11 schools as Focus Schools (4 percent of classified schools) and 18 schools as Priority Schools (6 percent of classified schools). Focus and Priority Schools are the lowest-achieving schools in the state and are subject to state intervention.

“We have an urgent obligation and a unique opportunity before us to transform our struggling schools,” said Providence School Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi. “Today’s report clearly indicates that we have much serious work to do in our district. We will immediately begin the process of putting our teams together to plan the process of school transformation. We expect that the changes we make in our struggling schools will drive extensive schoolwide reform throughout our district.”

Over the next two months, the schools newly identified for intervention will go through a diagnostic screening process to determine specific shortcomings and needs. By November, subject to Commissioner Gist’s approval, superintendents will select an intervention model for each newly identified Focus and Priority school.

By January 2013, districts will develop school-reform plans, which will include numerous reform strategies in the areas of leadership, support, infrastructure, and content. The plans will address the specific needs of each identified school. Plans for Priority Schools will cover a span of 3-5 years; plans for Focus Schools will cover a span of 2-3 years. RIDE will closely monitor the implementation of these plans. The 41 Warning Schools that RIDE identified today will also develop and implement plans for improvement, but on a lesser scale and without intensive RIDE oversight.

But not everyone was thrilled with the RIDE’s new accountability system. Frank Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, suggested the rankings focus too much on test scores and noted that new federal funds are not attached to the intervention schools.

“I think the new system is still over reliant on test scores which are attributable to less than 30% of the teachers in each school,” Flynn said. “There are caring dedicated teachers in all of our schools. Your performance and success should not be gauged by the zip code you choose teach in. All but one of the priority and focus schools are title one schools. That speaks volumes about the legitimacy of the process. Additionally there is no dedicated funding stream from ride to provide the supports necessary for these schools to succeed.”



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