Tuesday, July 17, 2012

RIDE's new school classifications and what they may mean for Providence

On Friday, July 13, RIDE released a list of the state's school ranked according to its brand-new classification system that was the result of Rhode Island's ESEA waiver (clicking on that link leads to a PDF from RIDE that provides an overview of the system). The results weren't great for many schools in Providence--as if any real good could come of simplistic rankings of schools. 21 of PPSD's 37 schools are now on "the list," a number that includes the several schools already designated as in need of improvement and receiving SIG funds. 

I use the term "the list' to mean that group of schools that are classified with "warning," "focus" or "priority" statuses. The reasons for those statuses are varied, related to achievement gap concerns, lack of progress overall in scores and other factors that right now seem far too nebulous. Some schools, such as MLK Elementary, have been designated with the "warning label" though there are elementary schools with worse outcomes for kids. Some schools, such as Nathan Bishop Middle School, met all NECAP targets last year yet have been designated as "focus" schools. Priority for great resources that help all kids in the building - that's what that means, right? 

Here are my other questions thus far:

1. What's the timeline and process by which school communities, including families, will use to select intervention strategies? In particular, I am interested in knowing whether and how parents and family members will be included in this decision making.

2. Are there quotas or limits on the intervention methods from which schools can choose?

3. What's the funding to support improvement within these schools (as well as schools districtwide no matter their RIDE status)?

4. How will the various intervention and support options will affect ongoing programs, and to what degree does the school leadership, faculty, and community have control over this?

5. What are the specifics of RIDE's classification? As I understand it, this resulted from RIDE changing the way it classifies schools in terms of their achievement levels. What were the specific triggers that caused so many schools to be classified as needing intervention? What does that tell us about the challenges the schools may be facing? How do those specifics affect the intervention strategies and options that may be available?

6. What are the intervention strategies and options that may be available?

At this point, I have no answers that are likely to enlighten anyone. I'm using what time I have available this week to seek answers that will help me understand more about the new system and what it might mean for all schools that have made it onto "the list." I will share here anything that feels like it might be useful. In the meantime, you might want to check out Tom Hoffman's blog, Tuttle SVC - Tom's been able to get his head around this much more adroitly than I have.


  1. Nathan Bishop was designated as Focus, not priority, whatever that really means. We did meet all of our NECAP targets, but that apparently is not good enough.

  2. Yes! Thanks for pointing that out, Ms. or Mr. Anonymous. I will change the text accordingly.

  3. Hi Jill,

    The only explicit difference I've found so far between focus and priority is the length of the intervention. 1-3 years vs. 3-5, or something like that. I'm not looking it up right now. Side question: does this reset the clock on ongoing interventions?

    RIDE breaks down the scores by category in the links on this page: http://www.ride.ri.gov/DataWorks/

    Bishop seems to have some achievement gap issues. Their poor and minority students are in some cases below the citywide averages for those groups (for example).

    King I would say has a triple whammy associated with declining scores. Your absolute proficiency goes down (got 11/30 which is not unsalvageable) you're unlikely to hit your growth target (got 4/10) and most of all, your student growth scores are going to be terrible -- they only get 5/25 there. They were about 10 points short of "Typical," I think.

    Also, I'm not going to get too deep into the woods here... but it looks like in reading MLK is right at the 60% cutoff between "2" and "3" on that metric and just under the same cutoff point in math. There's still a lot of variation in exactly how they might be calculating those, but basically, they're probably getting bitten by the cut score a bit. I don't know why they insist on using those cut scores instead of some kind of scaling. It isn't like the end result is easy to understand anyhow.