I did a little tabulation of the Providence Public Schools' 2009 high school NECAP data, and the results are pretty striking. There's plenty of fodder for analysis, which I expect to break down in some subsequent posts, but here are the numbers and my brief, subjective, Feinstein High School centric and not even necessarily well informed descriptions of the schools involved.
For those who don't know, I was a member of the Feinstein High School (re-)design team and worked there for a few years as technology coordinator and teacher. My wife still teaches history at FHS.
This list excludes charters, etc. We're concerned here with the internal dynamics of the PPSD here.
Proficiency rates, numbers:
Graph (blue=writing; green=reading; yellow=math):
The schools (official profiles here):
- Classical: the selective "exam school," that is, the only one you need to pass a test to get into.
- Feinstein: small (365) high school reconstituted in 2001 as the model for small schools initiatives within the Providence Public Schools (that is, other than The Met, etc.). Nominally under site-based management. Ordered to be closed or turned around as a persistently low-performing school under Race to the Top by Commissioner Deborah Gist.
- E-Cubed: A small (400) high school built in 2004, including a significant bloc of faculty from Feinstein, employing a similar design. Nominally under site-based management.
- Hope Arts, IT, and Leadership: Small schools (400 each) created by the State's 2005 intervention in Hope High School. Turned back over to the district in 2009 In fall 2010 the district plans to undo several of the structural changes made by the state (e.g., removing block scheduling) and consolidating into just Hope Arts and IT at 600 students each. Also, the re-constitution of Hope caused more senior faculty from other schools to bump out a cadre of new teachers recruited for Feinstein.
- PPSD Ave.: The average scores for the district as a whole.
- Providence Academy of International Studies: Small (400) school built in 2004. Took a fairly traditional approach and attracted good teachers from other schools in the district, including some from Feinstein. Both principals of PAIS did internships at Feinstein, the current one is a former Feinstein Dean of Teaching and Learning. Nominally under site-based management.
- Central: Big high school: 1260 total enrollment. Extensively renovated in recent years, but not the focus of any specific interventions.
- Mount Pleasant: Big high school: 1400 students. When I did my student teaching there 10 years ago, it was generally regarded as the second best option for middle class families, with high expectations for behavior, not so much for academics. Also, a complicated 1990's failed reform story. Since the turn of the century,it has become a source of leadership and good teachers for all the other schools and initiatives above. Not surprisingly, it has seen a long, slow decline as a result.
- Alvarez: School started mid-00's in a former parochial school building as a "Reverse-Klein" a small school created to accomodate overflow from large high schools in what turned out to be a very short lived enrollment peak. Subsequently moved into the new Adelaide Avenue facility originally designed for Feinstein High School. Well-regarded principal, but a hodge-podge faculty and student body put together under difficult circumstances. Traditional implementation.
- Cooley: The Gates-era health science themed small school (400) that didn't take, for whatever reason. Sibling to PAIS. Ordered to be closed or turned around as a persistently low-performing school under Race to the Top by Commissioner Deborah Gist.
In case you're wondering, in the schools other than Classical, the basic procedure is students may request their top two choices citywide, with a lottery if they're over-subscribed, and if they don't get into them then they're assigned another school based on proximity. The small schools are all as much "neighborhood schools" as the big ones.
Also, after reading the above it might be a little more clear to you why I get so frustrated with "OK, now we're going to shake things up in urban education" rhetoric. I live in Providence, I'm focused on high school reform, and eight of the 11 schools in the list above were either entirely new or were comprehensively reconstituted in the 10 years I've been here.