PAWTUCKET – The Rhode Island Department of Education awarded grants of nearly $700,000 to help improve the city’s two high schools yesterday.
Charles E. Shea Senior High School and William E. Tolman Senior High School will receive $349,297 each in federal School Improvement Grants, RIDE said.
The funds represent the first installment of $5.4 million to be awarded over three years for seven schools, including five others in Providence. RIDE identified all seven last October as among the most consistently lowest-achieving schools in the state. The schools later developed in-house improvement plans that will be partially implemented with the SIG funds.
"With input from students, teachers, parents, and other community stakeholders, each of these schools has developed an ambitious plan for improving learning and achievement," said Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. "After careful review of these plans, we are pleased to provide support that will help each school turn its plan into action.”
Pawtucket Schools Supt. Deborah Cylke said she’s looking forward to putting the money to work.
“We are grateful for the award and very appreciative of those who served in the stakeholder groups,” she said. “We are eager to get started and are looking forward to the transformative work.”
Cylke says she’s confident the funds will improve academic achievement and boost graduation rates at both Shea and Tolman.
RIDE’s prescription for chronically ailing educational facilities requires that each school choose a reform model and submit a rehabilitation plan to the commissioner for approval. Superintendents convene stakeholder groups, including parents and teachers, to provide guidance throughout the process.
All of the high schools identified as underperforming chose the so-called “transformational” model, which usually calls for the replacement of the principal; rigorous teacher evaluations that include rewards for increasing student achievement and removal of those who do not improve their professional practice; instructional reform; increased learning time; ongoing community engagement; and operational flexibility in staffing and budgets.
A few Providence schools selected another reform model known as the “restart,” which will allow them to reopen under a “joint labor-management compact” known as United Providence, a cooperative venture of the Providence School District and the Providence Teachers Union.
RIDE identified the first “cohort” of persistently low-achieving schools in 2010. Several schools, including Central Falls High School, were involved. Those schools are already on track to receive $11 million in SIGs to implement transformation reform programs through 2012.
“The RIDE protocol for interventions and the methods for identifying the lowest-achieving schools are part of the Rhode Island strategic plan for accelerating all schools toward greatness and are based on guidance from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the use of funds for high-poverty schools,” the educational agency said in a statement.