Central Falls, Rhode Island, may be best known today for going bankrupt and forcing its police and fire unions to accept cuts to pension benefits, but it has more going for it than angst.
It has people who care, like Mike Ritz and chocolatier Andrew Shotts, who are selling Chocolateville chocolate bars to help children at risk.
It also has a charter school that has quietly improved children’s reading skills, spreading its success to public schools in the city.
Joe Nocera writes in the NY Times that before starting The Learning Community in Central Falls, Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman “spent three years working with the Providence school system on a pilot program designed to come up with ways to ‘transform teaching practices and improve outcomes.’ “
In 2007, when Frances Gallo became the Central Falls Schools superintendent, she began to investigate why families were so excited about getting into The Learning Community.
“The school drew from the same population as the public schools. It had the same relatively large class sizes. It did not screen out students with learning disabilities. Yet the percentage of students who read at or above their grade level was significantly higher than the public school students. When Gallo asked O’Leary and Friedman if they would apply their methods to the public schools, they jumped at it.
“ ‘At first it was, “Oh, here comes another initiative,” ‘ recalls Friedman. There were plenty of venting sessions at the beginning, along with both resentment and resistance. But The Learning Community invited the teachers to visit its classrooms, where the public school teachers saw the same thing Gallo had seen. And very quickly they also began to see results.”
Read about how they do it here.