Davies celebrates achievements as 2013 National Blue Ribbon School

Davies celebrates achievements as 2013 National Blue Ribbon School

Prior to serving guests at a dinner reception last week, William M. Davies Jr. Career & Technical High School Chef Santos Nieves reviewed food options with students, from left, sophomore Devon Collins of Providence, junior Kevin Vieira of Central Falls, junior Evan Laurie of Pawtucket, and sophomore Samantha Estrada of Pawtucket. The event was held to celebrate the school being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School.

LINCOLN - Spirits were high last week at William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School, where 200 guests enjoyed a dinner reception in celebration of the school being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education for its "exemplary" improvement.

Students in the culinary arts program prepared a buffet dinner and desserts for the event on March 20, as school officials and trustees talked about the school's significant improvements, such as almost doubling reading scores over the past five years, and multiplying math proficiency by five.

Bernard Blumenthal, Davies business and education partnership coordinator, said the school has been especially proud of the achievement as it is based solely on academics.

"It dispels that notion," he told The Breeze, "that non-academic students go to technical schools."

Robert Halkyard, a trustee and former chairman of the Davies Board of Trustees, donned a white wig during his speech at the reception, calling himself "the ghost of Davies past," and recalling a time when "this school was considered just a vocational school."

"Tonight we're here to celebrate the Davies of now," he said, "the National Blue Ribbon School."

Halkyard took the audience through the history of the school, which he said had a leaky roof and a broken HVAC system in the 1980s. But $20 million later, the state-run school that operates with a board of trustees was outfitted with a new addition and new equipment, he said, and became the first high school in the state to have a computer in every classroom.

He also announced that because of the success of the school's blended learning classroom for math, a $25,000 grant had been made available to encourage matching to fund another by the fall at a cost of $50,000.

Data analysis to change course offerings, curriculum changes to align classes to the Common Core State Standards, and an increase in professional development opportunities are among the reasons Davies Director Victoria Gailliard-Garrick gave for the school's improvement in raising scores and closing gaps among subgroups.

Students at the school, she said, primarily hail from Pawtucket, with city residents accounting for almost 60 percent of the school population. Central Falls students account for 20 percent, with smaller numbers coming from Providence, North Providence, Lincoln and Smithfield.

As Davies officials reported in the application for the award, New England Common Assessment Program math proficiency for grade 11 was 7 percent in 2007, and increased to 35 percent proficiency in 2011.

Among those receiving free or reduced-price lunch, which Gailliard-Garrick said accounts for 67 percent of the school, math proficiency increased from 2 percent to 33 percent in those five years. Proficiency among African American students increased from zero to 28 percent, and scores for Hispanic or Latino students increased from 4 percent to 36 percent proficiency.

Special education students' math proficiency increased from the 2007 to 2011 testing years from zero to 11 percent.

In reading, students in grade 11 showed improvement from 48 percent proficiency in 2007 to 87 percent proficiency in 2011. Since then, Gailliard-Garrick said scores have improved to reach 91 percent proficiency.

Each subgroup also showed improvement over the five years. Reading proficiency for those receiving free or reduced-price lunch increased from 48 percent to 85 percent, African American student scores increased from 47 percent to 89 percent, Hispanic or Latino student scores increased from 51 percent to 88 percent, and special education student scores increased from 35 percent to 67 percent.

Gailliard-Garrick said data-driven decisions have been behind switching the entire school to a college-prep math program, offering student supports, and providing intervention to ensure each and every student understands the material.

"Most importantly, when you set high standards and you raise the bar and you have high expectations and you have the right tools, you will be successful," she said. "That's basically what we've been doing here."

Carolyn Kyle, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said while others in the American education system are starting to realize the importance of career and technical education, those at Davies are thinking, "Finally."

"A transformation of sorts is happening in this state, and Davies is at the help of this transformation," Kyle told the crowd, touting the school's established record of collaboration between business and education.

"Suffice it to say, at Davies, we mean business."

In celebration of being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School hosted a dinner for 200 supporters on March 20 with a meal and desserts prepared by students like, from left, sophomore Avia Payne and junior Keyla DeHoyos, both of Pawtucket. They are pictured with Bernard Blumenthal, the school's business and education partnership coordinator. (Valley Breeze photos by Meghan Kavanaugh)
At the ready for dinner service were William M. Davies Jr. Career & Technical High School students, from left, senior Brandon Bernard of Pawtucket, sophomore Devon Collins of Providence, senior Wesley DelaRosa of Pawtucket, and sophomore Nathan Silva of Pawtucket.
William M. Davies Jr. Career & Technical High School trustee Robert Halkyard donned a wig for a gag about "the ghost of Davies past" as he talked about the history and future of the school during a dinner reception on March 20 to celebrate the school being named a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School. Looking on are Carolyn Kyle, Davies Board of Trustees chairwoman, and John Quinn, board vice chairman.