PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – One in 10 Rhode Island schools are being targeted for intense interventions aimed at increasing student achievement levels over the next several years, according to data released Tuesday by the R.I. Department of Education.
All told, 28 elementary, middle and high schools from Providence, Pawtucket, East Providence, Newport and Central Falls were identified as "priority" or "focus" schools – meaning they'll have to make wide-ranging state-approved changes or opt to open under new management. Communities also have the option of closing failing schools.
"Our accountability system, which the U.S. Department of Education approved last year, provides us with a snapshot that shows where our schools excel and where our schools need resources and support," Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said in a statement.
"We have been working hard with our lowest-achieving schools – to help diagnose their challenges, identify needs, and take the necessary steps to turn around performance. So far, we have seen some examples of progress, and we expect the pace of improvement to advance dramatically in the coming years."
The list is part of the state's now two-year-old school classification system, which assesses nearly every school in the state based largely on their performance on mandatory state test and graduation rates. This year, RIDE analyzed 279 schools.
Once the data is crunched, RIDE then ranks the schools in one of six categories: Commended, Leading, Typical, Warning, Focus and Priority. In all, 24 schools - about 9% - across the state earned the state's highest ranking.
For the second consecutive year, the overwhelming number of poor-performing schools – including six high schools – came from Providence, which had 19 schools identified as priority or focus. Only one city school – Classical High School – earned a commended ranking.
All schools identified as low-performing have already begun making changes – which generally includes increasing common planning time for teachers, raising academic standards and creating a support system for struggling teachers, according to RIDE.
"Through the school classifications we released today, we honor the schools that have advanced student achievement and closed achievement gaps," R.I. Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso said in a statement. These classifications will also help us focus our efforts on providing support and guidance to the schools most in need of improvement. On behalf of the Board of Education, I extend congratulations to our Commended Schools and Leading Schools, and I pledge that we will work together to improve achievement levels in all of our schools."
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The new rankings come on the heels of state data released earlier this year that showed 40% of the state's 11th graders will have to retake the New England Common Assessment Program test in order to earn a diploma.
Beginning with the class of 2014, students are required to score at least "partially proficient" on the math and English sections of the New England Common Assessment Program test, which is administered in the fall of their 11th grade year.
In Providence, more than 80% of students at four of city's largest high schools—Alvarez, Central, Hope and Mount Pleasant— must raise their NECAP score in order to graduate. As a result, school officials scrambled to create a graduation awareness campaign that maps out a strategy for the city's 11th graders to improve their NECAP scores.
Meanwhile the state's highest-performing schools were dispersed through mostly suburban districts, including Bristol Warren; Chariho; Cranston; Cumberland; Exeter; Foster; Johnston; New Shoreham; North Kingstown; North Providence; North Smithfield; Pawtucket; Scituate; Smithfield; and Tiverton.
"I am glad to see that a large number of schools from communities across the state have earned the designation as 2013 Commended Schools," Governor Lincoln Chafee said in a statement. " I congratulate the students and teachers in our Commended Schools on their accomplishments, and I expect them to lead the way as we continue to move Rhode Island schools toward greatness."
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