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A School in Trouble: A Personal Story of Central Falls High School

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Overview

During and after his term as interim Central Falls superintendent in 2006-2007, Bill Holland sought answers to why some Central Falls High School students had school success while over half of their classmates failed to graduate. Much can be learned from how these students survived in a chronically low-achieving school located in the poorest community in the state. Holland provides behind-the-scenes details on the issues of poverty, ineffective teaching, and cultural differences while also advising students, parents, and teachers on ways to gain greater educational success. Before the book was completed, a federal and state mandate unexpectedly resulted in the superintendent having to adopt a turn-around model and fire the entire high school faculty and staff-an action that set off a firestorm between the school and state leadership and the American Federation of Teachers. The conflict made national headlines and was mentioned by President Obama as a prime example of a 'last resort' approach in reforming failing inner-city schools.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Persistently low-performing high schools have become all too common, and it is a challenge to determine what really works to turn schools around and restore their original educational identity. In A School in Trouble, the reader is taken on the journey of a school's renewal through the eyes and experiences of four students who face great challenges, and yet are successful due to the determination of parents and teachers who refused to accept the label "failing school." The challenges facing Central Falls High School's are complex, and many are not easily solved; they include poverty and residential instability among the students. Holland (emer., education leadership, Rhode Island College), a former Rhode Island commissioner of education, brings his vast educational experiences to this work and writes with straightforwardness and fairness to reveal what can be done to support student success in low-achieving schools. This must read is a narrative of hope for all. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
Pablo Rodriguez
William R. Holland's book is required reading for finding solutions to the challenges facing urban schools. Central Falls is a microcosm of America, and in his book, Holland debunks the superficial assessment of the high school as a "dropout factory." The author illustrates four students whose challenges were great and whose successes came as a result of the determination of parents and teachers who refused such a label for their school. His book gives us an in-depth look into a school full of pride, fear, and hope and at the complexities facing education in this century. It is a sobering portrayal of a school whose problems are complex and for which solutions don't fit a bumper sticker or a three-minute report in the six o'clock news. If you want the real story, read this book.
Viola Davis
I received validation, direction, and emotional support from my teachers in Central Falls. I credit them constantly in playing a huge role in my path as an actor. In his book, William R. Holland has illuminated a fact that has been ever present since I moved to Central Falls as a child at the age of two.
Kenneth K. Wong
This book addresses the challenge of turning around persistently low-performing high schools in communities with concentrated poverty. In documenting the schooling experience of four graduates from Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, the author offers contextually rich insights on what works. These stories will enable school reformers and practitioners to sharpen their focus on the key elements in their restructuring efforts.
Richard Bradley
A School in Trouble is a must-read for teachers, school administrators, parents, students, professors, and state and federal officials who are striving to find answers to complex problems that plague urban school districts. As a veteran educator with experience at all levels of education, William R. Holland doesn't mince words when he provides insightful and specific details about the challenge to provide poor, inner-city students with a better educational opportunity to realize the American Dream. At the same time, he provides cases of four successful inner-city graduates as examples of what can be. This is indeed a narrative of hope.
Inc. Book News
Holland, a former teacher and school superintendent, Rhode Island commissioner of education, and retired professor of educational leadership at Rhode Island College, draws on his recent experience as interim superintendent of schools in Central Falls, Rhode Island, where he was charged with recommending reforms. His reforms focused on the low-performing, urban high school in the area and better educating its Latino students. Here, he describes the struggles and realities of four recent Latino graduates, how they achieved success in spite of personal adversity and other obstacles, and the role parents, schools, and communities played in their education and what they can do to help more Central Falls students, within the context of the city and the school's reforms.
CHOICE
Persistently low-performing high schools have become all too common, and it is a challenge to determine what really works to turn schools around and restore their original educational identity. In A School in Trouble, the reader is taken on the journey of a school's renewal through the eyes and experiences of four students who face great challenges, and yet are successful due to the determination of parents and teachers who refused to accept the label "failing school." The challenges facing Central Falls High School's are complex, and many are not easily solved; they include poverty and residential instability among the students. Holland (emer., education leadership, Rhode Island College), a former Rhode Island commissioner of education, brings his vast educational experiences to this work and writes with straightforwardness and fairness to reveal what can be done to support student success in low-achieving schools. This must read is a narrative of hope for all. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
Times
If anyone has a background to compose such a book it's the 72-year-old Holland, who had spent approximately 44 years in the education field.
Library Journal
Poverty creates myriad problems, including abuse, poor health, and itinerancy. It also contributes to low school performance, although the question of how much this is a result of poor teaching and how much is owing to a school system's failure to provide the proper resources remains unanswered. Holland, a former superintendent, commissioner of education, and professor emeritus in educational leadership at Rhode Island College, focuses here on his final assignment as interim superintendent in Central Falls, RI, a district with a graduation rate below 50 percent and where more than 90 percent of its students received free or reduced lunches. Written primarily to show parents of Central Falls High School (CFHS) students how important their role is in helping their children succeed in school and graduate, Holland highlights four CFHS students who were able to overcome obstacles and graduate with high marks.Verdict This is an optional purchase for most collections, but educators and other parents in low performing schools may find it of interest.—Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781607098744
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/16/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 106
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

William R. Holland is a former Rhode Island commissioner of education and professor emeritus in educational leadership at Rhode Island College. Previously, he was a school superintendent for twenty years in Massachusetts and Rhode Island with his last assignment being interim superintendent in Central Falls during the 2006-2007 school year.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Foreword Chapter 2 Introduction Chapter 3 Interim Superintendent in Central Falls Chapter 4 The Obstacles to Success in an Inner-City School Chapter 5 A Jaded Perception of Urban Schools Chapter 6 An Urban Principal Questions Dropout Figures Chapter 7 Residential Instability Among Latinos Chapter 8 The Role of Poverty Chapter 9 The Need for Better Teaching Chapter 10 Is It Poverty or Better Teaching? Chapter 11 The Unique City of Central Falls Chapter 12 Central Falls High School Today Chapter 13 An Agenda for Change Chapter 14 The URI-Central Falls Partnership Chapter 15 A Severe Bump in the Road Chapter 16 Central Falls Students Chapter 17 Theresa Agonia - Overcoming Adversity Chapter 18 Bryant Estrada - An Independent Thinker Chapter 19 Guillermo Ronquillo -The Importance of Faith Chapter 20 George Carle - A Basketball Dream Chapter 21 Summary Chapter 22 Postscript

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 17, 2010

    A book with vital messages for everyone!

    Although Holland's book suggests contents that will be germane to Central Falls parents and Latinos, it could almost have been named "American's Schools in Trouble" because the major problems in education are universal as well as unique to schools like those in Central Falls, R.I.
    In his book, Holland deftly handles the complexities one confronts when trying to prevent a school from failing. He reminds us that the problems in education are multifaceted and must be acknowledged and dealt with appropriately and that complex problems cannot be solved with simplistic solutions. Fire all the teachers? Eliminate the unions? Hopefully, no one is naive enough to believe that doing either of those things will be a panacea for the legion of ills that exist. Blame poverty, the law, the culture, etc., these are pieces of every broken school.
    For someone who "has been there" and "done that" his tone is neither hostile nor defensive. At the end of the book in a positive vein, Holland highlights four students whose success stories are quite amazing and well worth our contemplation. Kudos to William Holland for a sensitive, refreshingly, well written, easy 134 page read on an incredibly complex topic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2010

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