PHS reverses course; no suspension for student walkout

At a packed meeting of the Portsmouth High School parent organization last night in the library, Principal Joseph Amaral tried to allay parent fears about security and appeared to modify his position on allowing students to participate in a walkout next Wednesday, March 14. The first half of the two-hour meeting was led by district security coordinator Allan Garcia, then he and Amaral fielded questions from an audience of parents who expressed significant frustration with communications from the school.

One pressing question on the minds of many attendees was what was happening next Wednesday.

“So they’re talking about a walkout," one parent asked. "And I know you guys are anti-walkout, but having a conversation that’s student-led, which is what these kids want to do with this walkout, personally I think it’s a good idea.”

Garcia seemed as confused as some parents. "Anti walkout? Are we pro-walkout or anti-walkout?" He looked to Amaral.

Amaral responded, “We’re doing a walkout with all the students on March 14th to the new gym. Some students already came to me and said ‘I don’t want to be a part of that,’ so there are going to be options for those students to go somewhere else. The walkout to the new gym is working with the Student Council leadership. I’ve met with them at least three times already to ask what they need, how they want to work it, how they want to construct it, and there are students who would prefer to walk to the track. And what I’m trying to do is accommodate, and be sure that they’re safe throughout.”

That led to another parent commenting, “Okay, this is another example of communication that’s a little bit awry. Because the e-mail that I received says that you can’t do it. It’s not safe. So please, the overarching thing here: more words in the e-mail. Maybe more frequent e-mails. [If we had that]I think maybe half the people wouldn’t even be here.”

“We’re going to try to honor everyone’s preference to make sure that there is support," Amaral continued. "And I think that’s probably more generous than a lot of districts, other high schools that I’ve talked to in the last two days.”

That seemed like a shift in message to some parents. “I left that communication thinking that if they go down there, they’re liable to be suspended,” said one. “And that’s what they think, too,” another added.

Amaral attempted to explain his e-mail. “I think that the communication indicated that we’re going to have an assembly, and we’re going to do that, I’m still working with the Superintendent in terms of the consequence, because we have a policy in place. But I also feel this is an extraordinary event. What we don’t want to do is create a precedent. Because there will be situations where students will want to manifest their opinions in ways that are sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Suppose a student gets suspended and they want to protest that student suspension. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good idea. Especially when they leave. I’m still concerned. I have to be sure we protect those kids from doing stupid things. Getting out, getting into trouble.”

Approached for clarification after the meeting, Amaral had this exchange with a reporter:

Amaral: “What I don’t want to have happen is kids shaming other kids, making other kids feel bad. That’s why I’m offering all these things. Because as many kids as we know want to be involved in either the gym walkout or the track, kids have come to me and said, I don’t want to do this. And I want to honor those kids too. It’s not like it’s a unifying...I wish it was more unifying...but every kid comes from a different place. And I’m working with the Superintendent to make sure that because of the extraordinary effect of what’s happening nationally, with the students, and the things that we’ve been going through here, to be as flexible as possible.”
Reporter: “What was in that memo that said that people were going to be suspended...”
Amaral: “The policy was reiterated. That was not in the original memo. I’ll just say that.”
Reporter: “So that’s not operational now? If students walk to the track, if they take that option, will they be suspended?”
Amaral: “No.”
Reporter: “Okay.”
Amaral: “Is it possible because we have, because we have rules, is it possible that they will have to meet with me and have a deterrment, you know, say, hey, you did this, but it doesn’t mean that next week you do another walkout because you don’t like the lunch food.”

The clarity of communications from PHS was a major theme, as parents peppered Amaral with questions for most of the second hour of the meeting.

“My kids don’t feel safe here," one parent said. "The e-mail and the communication that has been given from the school — they’re inadequate.” [This received a round of applause from attendees] And to send an e-mail out to say that that child — and he needs help, to bring a weapon to school, you either feel like you need to defend yourself or  you want to hurt something, either way, you’re reaching out and you need help — and to say that child had no intent to do anything is ridiculous, to even send that statement out. I feel like this was a great presentation, there was a lot of talking on your part, and fine, [but] I don’t think we’re really addressing anyone here. [Security measures that were discussed] I want to see that. But what are we can my kids feel safe tomorrow. Because they don’t.”

“The kids are afraid," said another parent. "They have real reason to be afraid. There was an intruder with a knife that came into their place. And hurt a teacher. In front of them. So, yeah, we’re uptight because of the Florida shooting, but we were attacked here. These kids were attacked here. A teacher was attacked. They need help. The kids in this school need help. And I don’t know when that’s coming.”

“Something bad is happening and I think a joint communication from the administration and the police department to the parents is absolutely, positively, a necessity," another parent added. "[We need you] To say, ‘we’re on everything.’ We’re giving them all this information [that] it’s going to be okay, but if they don’t see you, Principal Amaral, and the police chief stand together united saying, ‘we’re chasing, we’re following, all these things that are going on in this community, we’re on it. We’re the professionals.’ They need that. They need it badly. So support us as parents, and do your job. Stand up in front our kids. Look them in the eye. Old school communication. Pull them in a room. Get together. Side by side. And say, ‘This sucks. This is tough. But we got you. We’re going to do everything within our power to protect you.’ They need you guys to do that.”

One parent raised the issue of getting professional help to assist the schools with structuring their messages. “Do you have a crisis communications consultant?" they asked. "Because if you don’t that’s the person you probably need most. [T]here are ways to communicate confidence. I’ll give you just one example. The phrase, ‘we found no evidence to,’ repeated many times in the communications. As we all know, Snapchat is virtually untraceable. So telling us you found no evidence of something is poorly phrased. And I mean that in a very constructive way. There are things you’re trying to communicate that a good crisis communications professional might help you with. And I do think that a more rapid response mechanism for the school system, with communications, would help damp down the social media.”

Another parent stressed the importance of involving the students. “At this point, you have a real credibility issue," the parent said. "So what you need to think about doing is whatever you construct in terms of this crisis communications, [you need to] get student leadership to partner with you. To disseminate that good information. So that all the students are talking to each other and spreading good information that’s positive. And that might get your credibility back.”

This reporter followed up on another concern that had been raised by the wording of the initial memo from PHS. This reporter had sent an e-mail to the Superintendent, principal, and school committee, copying in the RI ACLU, questioning what appeared to be an attempt to limit student expression in last week's e-mail from the school.

Reporter: "To be clear, you’re going to allow the students to determine the content of what they do on that day?
Amaral: "That was never a question."
Reporter: "That was a question based on how it was written in the e-mail."
Amaral: "The students are the ones that are creating...if you you notice the e-mail, it was written by myself and the students. They approved...every single student that was in the leadership of the executive council approved that statement. And that statement was done from the conversations that we’ve had about how we’re going to move forward as a school and how we can do it in a safe fashion. The content is something that the students are going to have to determine, and that’s one of the things that’s in progress right now. They’re going to determine what the fashion of the meeting is going to be like. Are they going to do the 17 minutes of the moment of silence, are they going to have songs and a tribute from their peers, those are the things that they’re determining. I’m not going to edit them any more than anyone else here. As long as it’s not disrespectful or hurtful to another student. That was the purpose. Nothing in that e-mail that I saw indicated that I saw indicated that we were trying to sanction or subvert student messages. That was something can interpret that, but that’s not the message.”

After the meeting, this reporter followed up.

Reporter: “I apologize if I misinterpreted what was in that e-mail, that was just how I read it.”
Amaral: “I understand. But there was more information to come. I have to give the students a chance to meet. Today was the earliest we could meet, with the Student Council. I gave them until Monday to come back. And I don’t know, other than, individually, some kids saying that I’m going to do that walk to the track, [there has been] no leadership from that area has come to me and said, ‘I want to do this.’ If they had come to me before, I could have said, look, let’s do a sign-up sheet, do something, so I know who’s going, so I know how many people to assign there. None of that happened. I had to go to student leadership to say, look, this is important, we should do it, just the opposite of what you stated in your e-mail is happening. I approached student leadership and said, look guys, this I think is important to do, what do you think you should do. And then they debated it, and they took it to Student Council general membership, which is elected by the student body, and then they came back to me. Today was our third time meeting to come up with a plan that they want to entertain. It’s not about censorship.”
Reporter: “Then the e-mail could have been written a bit better, because that is what that e-mail said. That recommendation for a crisis comms person, that’s a real job.”
Amaral: “I’ve never heard of that, but I will mention it to the Superintendent. [...] That was one of the things that Sue Lusi said that we needed in our district, and we still need that communication piece, maybe that’s something that the Superintendent will put forward in future budgets.”

You'll notice that nothing from the first hour of the meeting is described in this reporting. The following exchange with Garcia took place at the beginning of the event, after he told a student with a video camera to turn it off and not record the proceedings.

Garcia: "Anybody here with the media? (Reporter raises hand) Okay, and what are you going to do with the information I provide today?"
Reporter: "That depends."
Garcia:" I just, and, uh, no offense, I cannot give away the playbook, obviously, to some of the safeguards we have here. So..."
Reporter: "But you’re going to discuss it with parents openly?"
Garcia: "Uh, yeah."
Reporter: "Okay."
Garcia: "I you understand that I don’t want this published in any type of periodicals about certain capabilities of certain things because it would, you know, if somebody’s reading it that shouldn’t be reading it, you know, it could be a bad thing."
Reporter: "You realize that’s prior restraint."
Garcia: "Okay. You call it what you want."

To be clear: If there was anything in the first hour of the meeting that deserved to be reported, I would have included it here. And the district's safety consultant needs to understand the implications of government attempts at suppression of press freedom. When a government official speaks at an event at which the general public is present, there is no expectation of confidentiality. Prior restraint exceptions need to be narrowly scoped. Much of what he said in that first hour had no security implications whatsoever, and his request of this reporter — and demand that a student not record — was, in my opinion, inappropriate.

02871, Localblogging, Schools

Letter to the editor: Drug-sniffing dogs in our schools

This letter appears in the Portsmouth Times and Portsmouth Press this week:

To the editor:
Last Friday, for the first time anyone can recall, drug-sniffing dogs were deployed at Portsmouth High School. For half an hour, students huddled in lockdown while the dogs prowled the halls. The administration has promised to continue this practice through the remainder of the year.

To me, this is yet another incursion on civil liberties that is tolerated in the name of security. We've grown accustomed to NSA wiretaps, taking our shoes off at airports, and ubiquitous surveillance. Now, we are willing to teach our children -- literally teach our children, in school -- that the state can send in dogs to sniff their belongings at any time, with no warrant.

But does Portsmouth have a reason to send in the dogs? According to the 2016 Portsmouth Substance Abuse Needs Assessment survey conducted by the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition, "Significant drops were reported in use rates for alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs over the past two years at the high school for all grades."

Security versus civil liberty is an area where reasonable people and courts can (and do) disagree. Whatever position you take, I think we can agree that it affects the character of our schools and is worthy of a community discussion. The Portsmouth School Committee will be taking up this issue at their meeting on Tuesday, May 9, and I encourage parents and residents to share their views.

John G. McDaid

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

PHS proceeds with K-9 sweep over ACLU objection

In an e-mail message just sent to parents, principal Joseph Amaral announced that a K-9 drug sweep had been conducted this morning at Portsmouth High School.


Today, April 28, 2017 Portsmouth High School, in collaboration with the RI Working Dogs Association, had a pre-planned lock down and sweep. The building initially went into lock down and then students and teachers continued with instruction while the building sweep continued in the parking lot. The event began at 9:22 am and the building was cleared before 9:38am. We commend our students and staff for their cooperation throughout the process. We want to reassure you that we are doing all we can to keep our students and staff safe.


Joseph N. Amaral

I have written to Supt. Ana Riley and School Committee chair Terri Cortvriend to register my extreme dissatisfaction with Principal Amaral's decision to proceed with this diminution of our students' civil liberties.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

RI ACLU opposes PHS drug-sniffing dog plan

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 3.17.16 PM.png
Click for full document.

In a tweet this afternoon, the RI ACLU announced it had sent a letter to the Portsmouth schools "strongly urging" PHS to reconsider their plan to use drug-sniffing dogs. The letter says that the use of police dogs "casts a pall over the entire educational experience and the values that schools should be instilling in students." From the letter:

The use of drug-sniffing dogs in the school setting is extremely troubling for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it treats students like criminal suspects instead of as teenagers who should be learning the value of human rights.

While you cite the “proliferation of illegal substances” among young people, we are not aware of any data that confirms such a proliferation, particularly while at school. In any event, as adults we would be appalled if our employer brought in drug-sniffing dogs because drug use was said to be “proliferating” among adults. It is no more appropriate to do it to captive teenagers in the school setting.

As you are undoubtedly aware, one day just last month, K-9 searches were conducted at Middletown High School as part of a “training exercise.” As is almost always the case with these these types of “exercises,” no drugs were found in the school. Since your plan does not appear to be prompted by any actual reports of widespread illicit drug activity at the school either, it remains abundantly clear that these searches are not really about rooting out drug problems; they are just blatant displays of raw police power and intimidation.

One of the documents I submitted in my complaint filed with the ACLU was the most recent "Portsmouth Youth Substance Abuse Needs Assessment," posted on the school district's own web site, which shows a decline in drug use. Here's the relevant page (annotations are mine; click to embiggen).

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 3.29.07 PM.png

I'm encouraged to know that I'm not the only parent who reported this to the ACLU, but I'm not surprised. At a meeting of the PHS Parent Advisory Board on Monday evening, 2 out of the 3 parents attending expressed their opposition to the plan. (Yes, I was one of them.) At that meeting, Principal Amaral disclosed that the plan was to have the dogs sniff not only lockers, but backpacks as well, which I find particularly problematic.

ACLU letter
Portsmouth Drug Use survey

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

Portsmouth High School to call in drug sniffing dogs

In an email dropped on a Friday afternoon during school break, buried in the fifth paragraph of what starts as an innocuous and boring memo, PHS principal Joseph Amaral announced the school would be "coordinating with the Portsmouth Police Department and other local police departments, including K-9 units, to sweep the high school to make sure that marijuana/or controlled substances are not present on campus."

While the goal of maintaining a drug-free school may be laudable, I have concerns about turning our educational institution into a space patrolled by multiple police forces and K-9 units. It seems disruptive and not conducive to the environment of collaboration and trust that our Portsmouth PD had worked so hard to achieve. I can accept the notion of a school resource officer, but this feels like it goes way beyond that.


Dear Parents/Guardians and Students:

Portsmouth High School consists of a community of learners who attain 21st century skills and prepare for career and college. We have the fastest growing number of students who select rigorous Advanced Placement courses while also balancing the whole student by offering a plethora of athletic and club activities for students to explore. Our students are well served with a dedicated faculty who continue their professional development in numerous curriculum areas throughout the school year as well as in the summer.

Several members of our faculty have spent time engaging in profession
A message from PORTSMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL [Repitition in original -- Editor]

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students:

Portsmouth High School consists of a community of learners who attain 21st century skills and prepare for career and college. We have the fastest growing number of students who select rigorous Advanced Placement courses while also balancing the whole student by offering a plethora of athletic and club activities for students to explore. Our students are well served with a dedicated faculty who continue their professional development in numerous curriculum areas throughout the school year as well as in the summer.

Several members of our faculty have spent time engaging in professional development with students as part of Patriots Committed. This group of students and adults provide chemical free activities and ongoing substance abuse prevention and health information to our students and community in hopes of students gaining optimal performance in all that they do. Our school continues to implement a positive behavior intervention program called MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support). Our MTSS committee has organized several programs to reward students for making good choices that contribute to a positive learning community. “Pride Bucks” have been implemented as recognition, by their teachers, for students demonstrating these behaviors. Teachers also recommend students as “Students of the Month” to the Principal for a celebratory breakfast. We continue to reflect and revamp our discipline code to support a balanced approach to respect and appropriate behavior.

As you may know, we have invited many organizations and groups to provide knowledge and guidance to our students on how to be safe and drug free. The State Attorney General’s program has come to our school to share with students real life stories and how we can help those who are afflicted with drug abuse. In addition, we recently hosted the F.A.C.T. program (Fostering Alternative Choices & Thinking) through the Department of Corrections for all of the Freshmen and Sophomore students in an effort to help them reflect about the best choices for themselves and how substance use/abuse will impact their life choices. We have also held assemblies and events to give students the tools to prevent bullying and intolerant behavior. This effort requires the support of the entire community including parents, teachers and students.

We are concerned with the proliferation of illegal substances, such as marijuana and other controlled substances among young people. In order to maintain a substance-free high school, we are coordinating with the Portsmouth Police Department and other local police departments, including K-9 units, to sweep the high school to make sure that marijuana/or controlled substances are not present on campus. These fully trained K-9 units will be used to do periodic searches throughout the remainder of the school year. K-9 units will not engage with students.

Finally, if you have concerns about your child regarding substance abuse, our Student Assistance Counselor, Kelly O’Loughlin, is available to provide additional support options. Her email contact information is . Working together we can make PHS an even better learning community.


Joseph N. Amaral
Principal - Portsmouth High School

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS, civil liberties

It's Teacher Appreciation Day -- #ThankATeacher

Image courtesy of NEA.

First and foremost, I want to thank all the teachers and staff at Portsmouth High School who have been working with our son, Jack, over the past couple of months as he's been having some health issues; the support and concern has been truly amazing.

Our whole family thanks Mr. Arsenault, Ms. Guerreiro, Mr. Holstein, Ms. Johnsen, Mr. Barker, Ms. Richards, Ms. Riesen, Ms. Valente, Mr. Betres, and Mr. Forgue, as well as Ms. Bellotti in Guidance and school nurse Ms. Hickey.

We feel very lucky to have such a great team working with us. Portsmouth has amazing teachers. Thank you all.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PHS

PHS at top of Rhode Island graduation rate

The Rhode Island Dept. of Education released data on 2014 graduation rates last Friday, and Portsmouth High School came at 97%, tied with Classical High School in Providence for highest in the state, sixteen points above the statewide average.

According to a press release from RIDE, the 2014 Rhode Island graduation rate rose to 81%, a 1-point improvement over the previous year and a 5.5-point improvement since 2009. The dropout rate declined to 8%, a 1-point improvement over the previous year and a 6-point improvement since 2009.

“Our high-school students, teachers, and leaders deserve high marks for their tremendous efforts in raising our graduation rate,” said Governor Gina Raimondo in remarks distributed by RIDE. “As we make creating opportunities for all Rhode Islanders a priority, we must continue this momentum to make sure our kids build the skills they need to compete in a 21st-century economy. Earning a high-school diploma is one important component to making our state stronger for everyone.”

In a note sent to PHS parents this afternoon, PHS principal Bob Littlefield said,

"We are extremely proud of this success because it is recognition of a great deal of hard work on the part of our students, teachers, and families. And this came for the Class of 2014 -- the class that not only had to pass all its courses and complete Senior Project but was required to demonstrate proficiency in reading and math on NECAP tests.

A great deal of credit goes to our counseling staff who refuses to give up on students and is relentless in getting students together with teachers in order to make positive progress toward graduation requirements.

I also want to recognize our teaching staff for their eternal optimism about individual student success. We don't give up on students and we don't allow them to give up on themselves.

Several high schools attained 4-year graduation rates of 95 percent or higher in 2014, including the Block Island School, Classical High School (Providence), Cranston High School West, and East Greenwich High School in addition to PHS.

Several high schools improved their 4-year graduation by more than 5 percentage points over the past year, including East Providence High School, the New England Laborers’/Cranston Public Schools Construction & Career Academy, Tiverton High School, Toll Gate High School (Warwick), West Warwick Senior High School, and William E. Tolman Senior High School (Pawtucket).

National information on the 2014 graduation rates is not yet available. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education released data on the 2013 graduation rates. Rhode Island, with a 2013 graduation rate of 80 percent, was 1 point below the national average and tied for 29th among all states. The Rhode Island graduation rate improved by 3 percentage points over the two-year span of the report, better than the 2-point improvement for the country as a whole.

A report on the 2014 Rhode Island graduation and dropout rates is posted on the RIDE website, at:

Editorial note: Written from press release and e-mail material.

02871, Localblogging, Schools

Portsmouth school leadership to meet residents

The Portsmouth school district's new leadership team — superintendent Anna Riley and assistant superintendent Thomas Kenworthy — will be holding two "meet and greet" sessions to provide residents an opportunity to meet and talk informally, according to an e-mail sent to parents by the district.

Riley and Kenworthy will be at the Portsmouth Free Public Library, 2658 East Main Road, on Wednesday, November 12, from 10:00 – 11:00am and on Wednesday, November 19, from 4:00 – 5:30pm.

For more information, please call the district office at 401-683-1039.

Editorial note: Written from an e-mail.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PSD

Portsmouth hires school Superintendent Ana Riley

On June 10th, the Portsmouth School Committee selected Ana C. Riley to be the next Superintendent of Schools in Portsmouth. Currently Ms. Riley is Superintendent of Schools in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Ana Riley began her career as a High School chemistry teacher in Fall River, Massachusetts and moved on to serve as principal of first an elementary and then middle school over the course of 16 years. Since 2008, she has served the Dartmouth School District first as the Assistant Superintendent and then Superintendent of Schools.

The School Committee was impressed with Ms. Riley’s focus on improving student achievement and her ability to work with district stake-holders to develop a strategic improvement plan guided by core values and multiple measures of student data. In Dartmouth, Ms. Riley worked with her staff to bring trust and transparency to the budget, publishing a detailed budget aligned to the strategic improvement plan and directed at improving student achievement. These were all core qualities the Portsmouth School Committee sought in its next Superintendent.

During her tenure in Dartmouth, Ms. Riley developed leading programs including: an “Every School, Every Week” program that had District Administrators at all levels visiting one school per week; an Academic Summer School for grades 1 through 8 which was integrated with the Dartmouth Recreation Department; an initiative for every High School Junior to take the PSAT; the utilization of the National Institute of School Leadership to support professional development; and the implementation of the STAR assessment program in the Dartmouth Schools, a less time consuming common assessment tool.

The Portsmouth School Committee has approved a three year contract. Ms. Riley will receive a base salary of $152,000 plus benefits, a package comparable with other Districts in Rhode Island that are Portsmouth’s size. Ms. Riley will be succeeding Rear Admiral Barbara E. McGann who has been serving as Portsmouth’s Interim Superintendent this past year. The Portsmouth School Committee has also established a Transition Subcommittee to act as the liaison with the new Superintendent. Its members include: Emily Copeland, Chair; Fred Faerber and Andrew Kelly.

Ms. Riley received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Regis College, a Master’s degree in School Administration from Fitchburg State College, and is presently enrolled in a Doctoral Program in Education Leadership. She resides in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Kyle, a Special Education Director in Dighton-Rehoboth Regional District, and their six children.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, PSD

PHS among 30 "commended" RIDE schools

Portsmouth high school is among the schools in 20 districts plus 3 public charters receiving the highest classification, "Commended," in the 2014 School Classifications announced today by the RI Department of Education (RIDE), according to a press release. RIDE used the Rhode Island Accountability System, which is designed to recognize outstanding performance and to provide support to low-achieving schools, to determine the 2014 School Classifications.

“I am glad that we have been able to honor schools from the majority of our school districts as 2014 Commended Schools, and I am particularly pleased that 18 high schools are among our commended schools this year,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Under our new Diploma System, these high schools have maintained high levels of proficiency while closing achievement gaps and supporting a high graduation rate. We will continue working to advance all schools toward greatness, with a particular concentration on helping our Priority and Focus Schools move forward with their approved plans for school transformation.”

Of the 277 classified schools, RIDE identified 30 schools (11 percent) as Commended. In addition to PHS, other local schools on the list are Fort Barton School (Tiverton), Rockwell School (Bristol Warren), Barrington High School, Middletown High School, and Mt. Hope High School (Bristol Warren).

As in previous years, RIDE based the 2014 School Classifications on:

  • Proficiency: How many students have attained proficiency or better?
  • Distinction: How many students have attained distinction?
  • Participation: How many students take the state assessments?
  • Gap-closing: Is the school serving all students, including those with disabilities and English Learners?
  • Progress: Is the school approaching its 2017 targets?
  • Growth (K-8): Are all students making progress?
  • Improvement (high schools): Is the school improving annually?
  • Graduation (high schools): Is the school reaching its graduation-rate goals?

Using these measures, RIDE placed each school into one of six classifications: Commended, Leading, Typical, Warning, Focus, or Priority.

As was the case last year, RIDE also classified 32 schools (12 percent) in the lowest classifications: 21 Priority Schools and 11 Focus Schools, adding only one new school: the Orlo Avenue School, in East Providence. The Priority and Focus schools are in Central Falls, East Providence, Pawtucket, and Providence, plus the Rhode Island School for the Deaf and the Segue Institute for Learning charter public school.

Priority and Focus Schools are designated for state intervention, which entails a diagnostic screening process to determine the strengths each school has and the challenges each school faces. Subject to Commissioner Gist’s approval, superintendents select an intervention model for each Priority and Focus school and then develop school-turnaround plans, which include numerous reform strategies in the areas of leadership, support, infrastructure, and content. The plans are designed to address the specific needs of each identified school.

Although some of the Priority and Focus schools have made improvements, RIDE is committed to holding schools in Priority and Focus status to give these schools sufficient time to develop and implement their plans for transformation.

“School turnaround is a major undertaking that requires several years of progress before we can be confident that the improvements are durable,” Commissioner Gist said. “As a result, we continue to work closely with all Priority and Focus schools for at least two years to ensure that they are on the road toward school improvement.”

The 55 Warning Schools that RIDE identified today must also develop and implement plans for improvement, but on a lesser scale and without intensive RIDE oversight.

A complete list of the 2014 School Classifications is available on the RIDE web site.

RIDE also has a Fact Sheet (see under User Guides) and other information on the Rhode Island Accountability System (see under School Performance Tables).

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, Schools, RIDE