Three years after a state order to dramatically overhaul Central Falls High School, a new report finds evidence of progress. The Education Alliance at Brown University conducted the study, which finds school culture and parent involvement have improved significantly.
The graduation rate at Central Falls High is up from 48 percent in 2009 to 70 percent last year. Superintendent of Central Falls Schools Fran Gallo says it took an all-out effort from school staff to keep students from dropping out.
“We pulled out all the stops,” Gallo said. “Every teacher, the guidance counselors, everyone really involved in making sure that all of our children number one were welcomed and number two that we weren’t going to stop until they were successful.”
Gallo says the district has also been working to improve teacher morale, which was decimated by a mass firing triggered by the high school overhaul. This year, teachers arriving for orientation day were greeted by parents and students holding signs and applauding.
“[They] encircled the teachers as they sat in the auditorium and continued to explode in applause,” Gallo said. “I think it was one of the very best starts of the school year I’ve seen in my career.”
The Annenberg Institute report finds teacher absenteeism has fallen, but some teachers and school administrators report that student attendance continues to be an issue.
Mathematics represent another continuing challenge for Central Falls High. While the report points out that students nearly doubled their proficiency rates on the most recent administration of the statewide standardized test known as NECAP, their scores remain among the lowest in the state. Just 13 percent of Central Falls High School Juniors scored proficient or better on the test last year.
Superintendent Fran Gallo says she will not be satisfied with the overhaul until student test scores reach a much higher level.