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State takeover possible of underperforming schools

May 9, 2010

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RICHMOND, R.I.—Schools in Rhode Island that are poor performers could eventually be taken over by the state.

If a school district fails to significantly improve a school within three years, state education officials will consider taking over the school, Deputy Education Commissioner David V. Abbott said.

Fixing the worst schools is required if states want to receive millions of dollars in federal aid intended to improve education for low-income students. About one-third of Rhode Island's 300 public schools are eligible for the grants.

Federal education officials require states to identify not only the lowest 5 percent of schools, but the next lowest 5 percent and a third tier of schools with low-proficiency rates and poor high school graduation rates.

The schools have not been publicly identified and the state has no immediate plans to intervene in them, a department spokesman said.

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist wants to use new procedures to intervene in persistently failing schools.

"We are dead serious about intervening," Gist said.

If a district fails to significantly improve a poor-performing school within three years, state education officials will schedule a hearing that could lead to a state takeover.

The procedures make it clear that significant change is coming to schools that consistently fall short in reading and math test scores and lose too many students along the way.

"Under no circumstances will persistently lowest-achieving schools be allowed to continue to operate under status quo-conditions," the procedures say.

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Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.projo.com/

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