The Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE) released the 2012 School Classifications, a list outlining the progress of institutions throughout the state. The bulk of Johnston’s schools fell within the “typical” range, with one school, Brown Avenue, achieving the second-highest rating of “leading.”
The 2012 Classifications were the first to be released under the new Rhode Island Accountability System, which is aimed at identifying and aiding low-performing schools. The 2012 Classifications were based on several components, including student proficiency, growth, improvement, graduation and gap closing (how well the school serves all students, including those with disabilities).
The scores, with a maximum score of 100 possible, were then boiled down into classifications: “commended,” “leading,” “typical,” “warning,” “focus” or “priority.”
RIDE identified 26 “commended” schools, 11 “focus” schools and 18 “priority” schools, none of which are in Johnston.
The 11 “focus” schools were all newly identified, as were 5 of the 18 “priority” schools. Both “focus” and “priority” schools are the lowest achieving in the state and are therefore subject to state intervention.
According to a press release issued by RIDE on Friday, the 29 lowest-scoring schools will undergo a diagnostic process in the following months. By November, superintendents of those schools will identify an intervention model and by January, districts will develop school-reform plans. The plans will cover up to five years for priority schools, and up to three years for focus schools.
Neither superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo nor assistant superintendent Dr. Arthur Petrosinelli were available for comment as of press time.
Lesser plans for improvement will also be implemented for schools that received a “warning” classification, but with minimal RIDE oversight.
But the numerical scores and classifications do not always go hand in hand. For example, earning a score greater than 70 does not necessarily guarantee the school will rate at or above “Typical.” But why is that?
Elliott Krieger, executive assistant to Commissioner Deborah Gist, explained that an extremely low score in a particular category can sway the school’s classification even if they scored well in the other areas.
Take, for example, Warwick’s Randall Holden Elementary School, which received an overall score of 71 and a “warning classification.” Conversely, Johnston’s Brown Avenue School, with an identical numerical score, received the much higher “leading” label.
Krieger said Randall Holden’s lowered classification was due to an extremely low score in the student growth category; Randall Holden earned five out of a possible 25 points in that category, while Brown Avenue earned 15.
The student growth category is based on NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) scores, but Krieger said the rubric doesn’t make it harder for already high-achieving schools to earn all possible points in the student growth category. Instead, he said that high-achieving students are compared against their counterparts in other schools. Those at Randall Holden, he explained, showed less growth than their peers, pushing the high-scoring school into the lesser category.
In addition to the one “leading” elementary school, the town’s other three grammar schools were rated “typical,” as was Ferri Middle School and Johnston Senior High.
Zachary Farrell, the assistant principal of Johnston High School, said although he was not surprised Johnston High did better than many other schools, he’s not exactly pleased with the “typical” rating. In a letter to the editor, Farrell said the metrics used to determine the school’s score don’t fully capture what makes Johnston High a great institution.
“A more complete portrait can be gauged by the intangible things that define our school,” he wrote. “These are measurements too deeply intrinsic for any one irksome moniker to convey. These factors that the state and federal government fail to account for speak volumes compared to the myopic prism from which our classification is contrived.”
Farrell said the classifications should factor in school spirit, arts programming, alumni activity, athletic championships and faculty dedication. Those extra components, said Farrell, make Johnston High School “anything but ‘Typical.’”
Brown Avenue School, 71, Leading
Sarah Dyer Barnes School, 60.33, Typical
Thornton School, 52.67, Typical
Winsor Hill School, 52, Typical
Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School, 51.50, Typical
Johnston Senior High School, 59.83, Typical