Providence schools’ graduation rates up, proficiency down
IMPROVEMENTS IN BOTH THE GRADUATION and dropout rates for Providence's public schools were offset by slight declines in reading and math proficiency levels, according to the latest report from the city school district.
PROVIDENCE – A new progress report on student learning in city schools shows improvement in graduation rates and the dropout rate in 2012-13 and reflects administrative commitment to making more progress.
In an interview with Providence Business News prior to release of the embargoed report on Friday, School Superintendent Susan F. Lusi said that the “On the Move” report on college and career readiness in the district improves on data shared in the previous year’s report, “Opening doors,” but that there is more work to be done.
In the 2012-13 academic year, the graduation rate in a district of 24,000 students came in at 71 percent, 6 percentage points higher than the year prior, while the dropout rate was 12 percent, about 5 percentage points less than the previous year.
The 2013-14 data will not be available from the R.I. Department of Education until January, she said.
“I want to be at 100 percent graduation rate and zero-percent dropout rate,” Lusi said. “I want to be really clear: we have progress to celebrate, and we still have a lot of work left to do.”
She attributed the improvement to personal plans families sign off on now that keep students engaged and on track in striving toward graduating, as well as a credit recovery program that enables students who may not have passed a course to make up the work.
A legislative change two years ago also requires students who want to sign themselves out without graduating to wait until age 18 instead of 16 and to have a plan in place to pursue a general equivalency diploma.
“It just makes it harder for kids to say, ‘I’m out of here’,” she said.
The full report will be distributed to families, educators and funders at a convocation slated for Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the Providence Career and Technical Academy field house, Lusi said. It also will be made available in the schools and on the district website.
The report also references two new high schools set for opening in 2015-16 that will be in the planning stages this year. The schools, funded with a three-year, $3 million grant from Carnegie Foundation called, “Opportunity by Design,” will use a combination of blended learning – technology and teacher-based instruction.
The schools also will combine “recuperative” and “accelerative” learning, so a student who is ahead in math but behind in reading, for instance, can be taught at the appropriate levels and make progress in both subjects without necessarily studying with the same group for each subject, Lusi said.
Addressing learning gaps, as well as proficiency levels, will be important she said. Regarding proficiency in the report, for which 2013-14 data was available, reading proficiency had dropped to 49 percent from 50 percent the year prior, while math proficiency decreased to 32 percent from 34 percent the year before, the report states.
“We’re on the move,” Lusi said, referring to the need for innovative schools to support gains made in areas like graduation and dropout rates. “We’ve been improving; however, we are improving too slowly. So, we need to move further, faster. These schools are designed to address students we serve who have learning gaps. These schools will be real proof points that we can do things very differently here with much better results.”
New strategies for district-wide improvement added to seven long-standing ones include developing programming for students with social-emotional needs and having the central office function by problem solving, not just giving administrators “yes” or “no” answers when something new is being tried, Lusi said.
Regarding the social-emotional needs that have arisen among students, Lusi said, “We heard more than ever before about disturbing behaviors on the part of really young children that indicated there are some issues that go beyond the academic and learning component and these kids need additional support.”