Friday, January 15, 2010

Fun Facts about Feinstein High School

I needed to get some perspective on Feinstein High School's (FHS) status as one of the "worst" schools in Rhode Island, hypothetically to be turned around, but almost certainly simply to be closed.

I went to RIDE's Information Works site and looked up some numbers to compare FHS to other "urban" schools in RI. I couldn't find a handy spreadsheet, so I looked up the numbers in PDF's and made my own spreadsheet of the most recent data (08-09). The fun facts:

  • FHS has the third highest 11th writing score of the sixteen urban high schools which provide scores, behind only Classical (enrollment by test scores) and Times2 (a K-12 charter).
  • FHS's five year graduation rate is sixth of the sixteen, but second among neighborhood district schools.

Those are the cherries, of course. The reading scores are surprisingly bad - 13th, the math scores are lousy and four year graduation rates lag.

But bad schools do not typically rank high in any areas. What you see in Feinstein is a school that was built pre-NCLB around performance standards and authentic assessment. It never really accepted that tests were the most important measure of student learning, never embraced test prep, and never optimized their program to, say, dial back the writing, debate, and presentation to ratchet up the practice on short answers to reading prompts (also, they never found a good full set of math teachers). And since they're in a building the district would rather shutter... game over.

What's crazy, really, is how many of the high schools in Providence were either started, reconstituted, or at least significantly renovated over the past ten years. The only ones left alone are Classical and Mount Pleasant, which has steadily declined as its leadership and the district's attention was directed elsewhere. It is the school most in need of serious intervention (its scores are far below FHS's), but it was passed up this time. I wonder why.


Claus von Zastrow said...

Does the district offer a public template for calculating school achievement? As you demonstrate, that's a tricky business.

It's interesting to learn about the disparity between (high) writing and (low) reading scores at Feinstein. Is one assessment or the other out of whack, or are they both?

Tom Hoffman said...


There is no grand formula in the style of NYC, if that's what you're referring to.

Based on my knowledge of the school, which for the past five years is primarily just from what my wife tells me, the scores are probably just representative of the focus of the curriculum. That is, they do a ton of writing.

For example, iirc you need a fifty page work of fiction related to the theme of a major interdisciplinary unit in your portfolio to graduate (this sort of thing also plays into lowering your four year grad rate, ofc). As far as my wife and I are concerned, that (in particular) does reflect an overemphasis on writing. Which is a problem, but it is a particular kind of problem.

I'm not sure why the reading scores are as low as they are, but I imagine FHS students spend almost no time writing short answers or answering multiple choice questions in response to reading.