Fall River Public Schools
Fall River, Massachusetts is an urban community with approximately 90,000 residents. With a 56% graduation rate in 2007-2008, the public schools ranked among the lowest performing in the state, and the Department of Education placed the school department on “warning status” the following year.
To their credit, both the former and current Superintendents focused their full attention on improving the climate and instruction throughout the entire district. Extraordinary efforts were made by district leadership to shift the balance from an adult-centered environment where policies and procedures were put in place to protect the status quo and prohibit transformation to that of a community of learners where high expectations and accountability were the norm.
In the midst of all of this change, Resiliency Prep School (RPS) was born. The goal was to create a school that offered students a variety of options that were viable alternatives to their mainstream instruction but differed in design and delivery. To accomplish this, major resources were committed by the district and raised through federal, state, and local grants to support the work that was developed by the staff.
RPS’ impact was immediately realized. The comprehensive high school began referring students who were in danger of, or expressed an interest in, dropping out of school. The student population at RPS rose from 50 in 2006 to 250 in 2010, and, in short time, the school transformed itself from a dropout factory to a community of caring and learning. Although RPS is not solely responsible for the vast improvements made by the district, its success is a major component of the district’s turnaround. In 2008, the dropout rate in Fall River was 12.5 percent. In 2009, that number was cut in half to 6.2 percent. And in 2010, the number dropped below 5 percent (4.9). What is more amazing, RPS graduated more than 56 percent of its students in 2010 placing them amongst the most successful alternative schools in the nation.