What a difference a year can make.
A year ago, the Rhode Island commissioner of education identified six schools, including Central Falls High, as the state's "persistently lowest-achieving schools." Of the four options available to schools in order to still receive federal funds, Superintendent Frances Gallo was the only superintendent in the state to choose the turnaround model. In February 2010, Gallo fired all 93 teachers and administrators and support staff in Central Falls High School as a first step in turning around the failing school, and in turn she become a national icon for radical school reform.
After months of intense mediation, Gallo and the Central Falls Teachers' Union agreed on a resolution last May. The district and the teachers union both agreed on a five-year transformation model—-another of the four options available to receive federal funds—-and the district rehired all the teachers. Key points of the settlement agreement include having a longer school day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., adding a half hour to the day; having teachers perform one hour of tutoring before or after school each week; and having each high school teacher participate in one 90-minute meeting after school every week to study data and/or review student work and improve professional practice. The door has opened for more students to be proficient in math and reading and for teachers, students and parents to be enthusiastic about succeeding.
"We felt confident all along that collaboration was the key to success, and I think these last months have proven that to be true," Gallo says. "Progress has been made in part because the teachers, students, parents and administration are working together to improve all facets of schooling."
The percentage of students scoring proficient or above in math was 12 percent in 2010, but the 2011 target is 25 percent and the 2012 target is 40 percent. in reading, 65 percent of students were proficient or above in 2010, while the 2011 target is 75 percent and the 2012 target is 85 percent. The district committed to improving the school culture created a Parent-Teacher-Student Organization.
"We have a long, tough road ahead of us," Gallo concludes, "even though numerous elements of progress are evident."