We have had a strong start to the 2019-2020 school year in the city of Fall River. We are making tremendous progress in building the New Durfee High school, investing in facility upgrades, performing preventative maintenance, returning the best possible educators, caring for all of the developmental needs of our students, and making sure we are having fun at the same time. Each fall the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), release our annual MCAS results and overall accountability range.

In a year of nearly full transition to computer based testing in Massachusetts (only High School STE and retests were paper-based in 2019), the Fall River Public Schools continued to make "Moderate Progress Toward Targets" in 2019, as categorized by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This categorization is informed by the district's overall progress toward state-determined improvement targets that include student achievement and year to year growth on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), as well as students' progress toward English language proficiency, rates of chronic absenteeism, four-year graduation rates, extended engagement rates, and the percentage of 11th and 12th grade students engaging in advanced coursework. As a district, highlights include improvements around chronic absenteeism and percentage of 11th and 12th graders completing advanced coursework, as FRPS exceeded the state-determined targets in both of these areas. For the second year in a row under the new system, FRPS has been designated as a district "not requiring assistance or intervention."

Among the district's sixteen schools, progress toward individual school targets and statewide percentile rankings varied greatly. Individual schools found themselves identified across the full spectrum of categorizations -anywhere from "meeting or exceeding targets" to "in need of broad/comprehensive support," and everywhere in between. And percentile rankings showed Fall River schools ranging anywhere from the 2nd percentile to the 52nd percentile in their respective school types. These variations were not unexpected or cause for alarm, overall, but rather this year's data offers opportunity for some major celebrations, as well as, confirmation of the necessity of some big moves made by the district coming out of the 2018-2019 school year.

The biggest highlights of 2019 came out of the district's two K-8 schools: the John J. Doran Community School and the Henry Lord Community School. Both schools have shown steady progress over the last two years, increasing their respective percentile rankings among schools across the state serving a combination of grades 3-8. Under the leadership of Principal Eric Bradley, Doran has led the district in terms of progress toward targets for the last two years, and has been categorized as "meeting or exceeding targets" while increasing its 2018 percentile ranking from the 27th percentile in 2018 to the 31st percentile in 2019. Similarly, HLCS has made substantial progress toward targets under the leadership of Dr. Aimee Bronhard, increasing its percentile ranking 6th percentile in 2018 to the 10th percentile in 2019. Both schools have found that a focus on equity and access for all has yielded increased student achievement.

Additional highlights come out of the city's north end, from two elementary schools -Spencer Borden and James Tansey. Spencer Borden has led the district in overall performance under the new system, making substantial two-year progress toward targets and maintaining a high percentile raking. This year, Spencer Borden is ranked in the 52nd percentile of all Massachusetts schools serving a combination of grades 3-8, and English learners at Spencer Borden exceeded their targets for progress toward English language proficiency. Just a few blocks away, Tansey has spent the last three years under the guidance of Principal Audette, implementing blended and personalized learning and making great strides in terms of their progress toward targets as well statewide ranking. This year, Tansey made "substantial progress" toward targets and moved from the 19th to the 30th percentile.

With a categorization of "moderate progress toward targets" for 2019, the Fall River Public Schools is planning for more substantial progress in the year ahead. Recognized needs around core instruction, support for language acquisition, and tiered interventions to support the core have resulted in the creation of new positions, as well as, a year-long professional development plan to support teachers in an effective cycle of instruction. This cycle is an area of focus for the District's Office of Instruction -one that will be monitored closely by its Chief Academic officer and newly hired Directors of Curriculum, along with the department's other directors.

Our School Committee is a highly functional governance team focused always on the right work to improve our system. Together, all professional educators, working collaboratively with leadership and governance, are focused on closing student achievement gaps and increasing overall student achievement results. We are committed to developing the best possible human beings who are just, capable, competent, and ready to drive the future economic development and overall community progress for Fall River and the South Coast.

Matthew H. Malone is Superintendent of Schools for the Fall River School District.