With the start of a new school year, our entire Providence schools community is focused on achieving the bold goal of ensuring that every one of our students will graduate ready to succeed in college or their chosen career. We have not committed to this goal lightly and we acknowledge that a great deal more work needs to be done to improve student performance in our city. But as recent results show, we are indeed on the move to providing our nearly 24,000 students with the good education, resources and tools they need to be college and career ready.
Just one year into implementing our “Opening Doors to Our Children’s Future” strategic road map for achievement, we are seeing real progress on key measures of student success. This past school year we increased our graduation rate, decreased our dropout rate, improved our attendance rate and decreased chronic student absenteeism.
Further, we have seen strong improvements in reading proficiency for our younger students, with particularly impressive gains for our English language learners. These improvements are a testament to our dedicated teachers who have mastered a new reading curriculum and the highly targeted efforts of programs like Providence Reads, which provides reading interventions for early learners.
These successes have taken an incredible amount of time, dedication and collaboration to better support students in and out of the classroom. Improvements have been made possible by the hard work of our teachers, principals, staff, community partners and volunteers who are helping us implement three core strategies: Highly Effective Educators, Student Centered Learning, and Creating Systems That Work.
These strategies are guiding our efforts to better target the needs of our district and drive student success. We have begun creating new expanded learning opportunities for students to continue learning outside of the classroom, and are providing professional development opportunities that support teaching strategies bettered tailored to the needs of our students. The Providence School Board is also completing a new strategic direction policy that will allow for greater school-based autonomy so that teachers and administrators closest to children can make decisions regarding how best to meet learning needs.
While our core strategies are achieving positive results, we know that we still have an incredible amount of work to do. Put simply, we must improve our unacceptably low student math and reading proficiency results.
That is why Providence schools are approaching this school year with purpose, urgency, focus and service to all students and families. We have seen the difference that targeted early interventions can have and what can happen when teachers, community partners and an aligned curriculum are all working together. Like the reading success our younger students have achieved, we know that through the engagement, dedication and hard work of our community, our students can all achieve.
During this 2014-2015 school year, we can and we must continue our commitment to improvement so that our students are prepared for lifetime success. With our core strategies in place and the new Common Core curriculum, Providence students are being put on an improved track to graduate college and career ready.
Providence schools are on the move, and this school year we look forward to working with our entire community to continue the improvements we have seen and create a brighter future for our students, our schools and our city.
Susan F. Lusi is the superintendent of Providence Public Schools. Keith A. Oliveira is the president of the Providence School Board.