Local high schools remain in priority status

Local high schools remain in priority status

Others in city commended again

PAWTUCKET - Two local high schools remain under "priority" intervention status from the Rhode Island Department of Education, but that lowest designation is not expected to last long.

Supt. Patti DiCenso emphasized that the priority designation was mandated because Shea and Tolman High School are required to stay under state-mandated "transformation" status for one more year.

The schools have shown "significant growth" in various scoring categories, especially on graduation rates, good enough to take both out of priority (transformation) status and move them up three steps to "typical" status, said DiCenso.

The six steps for schools are commended, leading, typical, warning, focus, and priority.

Schools in 20 school districts and three charter public schools received the highest "commended" classification in performance released by the Rhode Island Department of Education on Monday.

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said in a news release that educators will keep working "to advance all schools toward greatness," with a particular concentration on helping priority and focus schools improve.

Of the 277 classified schools, RIDE identified 30 schools as commended. Six schools, including Pawtucket's Blackstone Academy Charter School, are commended schools for a third consecutive year.

Other city schools classified as commended in 2014 are Varieur Elementary School and the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing Arts.

Though some of the state's priority and focus schools have made improvements, RIDE officials say they are committed to holding schools in the lower categories to give them sufficient time to develop and implement 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," said Gist.

State education officials announced in the fall of 2011 that the two Pawtucket high schools would be required to institute one of four reform models. Local education officials chose "transformation" model, leading to both principals being let go and a series of other changes implemented in the schools.

The move into transformation came after three years of both high schools having less than a 60 percent graduation rate.

The Breeze reported in January that graduation rates at both schools had shot up, to 82 percent at Shea and 71 percent at Tolman, meaning that the cross-town rivals will be allowed to exit the transformation intervention status once the three-year requirement expires next year.