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A School in Trouble: A Personal Story of Central Falls High School [Kindle Edition]

William R. Holland , Anna Cano Morales
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

Review

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. (Pablo Rodriguez, president of Latino Public Radio and former chair of the Rhode Island Foundation)

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. (Viola Davis, Academy Award-nominated actress for her supporting role in Doubt, currently in a lead role with Denzel Washington in the critically acclaimed Broadway show Fences, and a 1983 graduate of Central Falls High School)

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. (Kenneth K. Wong, Chair, Education Department and director, Urban Education Policy Program, Brown University)

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....Educators and other parents in low performing schools may find it of interest. (Library Journal)

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. (Richard Bradley, former executive director, New England Association of Schools and Colleges)

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. (Book News, Inc.)

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. (CHOICE)

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. (Times, August 13, 2010)

About 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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1028 KB
  • Print Length: 106 pages
  • Publisher: R&L Education (September 16, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003Z0BKNS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,898,933 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crucial Read September 26, 2010
Format:Paperback
A Crucial Read

Although this book's title "A School in Trouble: A Personal Story of Central Falls High School" suggests that its contents will germane to the people of Central Falls RI only, it could almost have been named "America's Schools in Trouble" because the major problems in education are universal. Added to these universalities are the unique difficulties each school/system faces and Central Falls has more than its share.

In this 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 multi-faceted 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, budget constraints, the parents, the administrators, the law, the culture, and yes, even the students themselves. These are the pieces of every "broken" school. Holland discusses each of these topics specifically in relation to Central Falls and then to education in general. For someone who has "been there" and "done that" his tone is neither hostile nor defensive. He attempts to provide a fair assessment of the Central Falls situation despite the fact that some of his own work as Interim Superintendent has been derailed by U.S. Department of Education reform directives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read for Educators! August 23, 2010
Format:Paperback
In his latest book, William Holland writes a refreshingly honest perspective of his observations and experiences as Interim Superintendent of the Central Falls School District. His passionate approach highlights the successes, failures, frustrations, obstacles to reform, key people involved, and a strong desire of so many to overcome years of upheaval, mainly at Central Falls High School. As one would expect from a seasoned and highly competent educator with an enormous amount of experience and knowledge at all levels of education, Dr. Holland formulates astute conclusions and practical, realistic, and compassionate solutions. He does so without any sugar-coating or bashing of any issue or person involved, while at the same time, clearly lets the reader know something must be done...soon!
The author's sensitive summaries of his interviews with students and parents are noteworthy; and, his comments about leadership, teacher effectiveness, parental involvement, and students' responsibilities for their own education reflect Dr. Holland's ability to capture the essence of this wonderfully unique inner city school. He does so in only 112 pages, making it an easy read, yet full of depth, authenticity, and hope...just like the one-mile square city and school district it describes. It's a must-read for anyone involved in education or community service!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative... August 18, 2010
By jaculis
Format:Paperback
Brief Synopsis: Case history of problems that plague urban school districts, profiling the case history of the Central Falls, RI, urban school district. Highlights four students that graduated and offers some suggestions as why they succeeded when over 50% drop out in their district. Goes into some ethnocentric challenges faced in urban school districts. Must read for teachers and anyone involved with students. Explains why role of parents' involvement in students education affects outcomes drastically. Bill is an amazing man and worth a read. Book is short and to the point, but dense with information. In the same league as "The Skillful Teacher", filling in for parts and problems often cast aside and conveniently ignored and hidden away in a box.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Quick Read August 27, 2010
By Katie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read Bill Holland's, "A School in Trouble", it is not surprising that some Central Falls High School teachers would critize him for his support of Superintendent Fran Gallo and his mention that a number of mediocre teachers should be replaced if the school is to advance. After last spring's nationally publicized and ugly dispute between the teachers' union and the school administration, it is understandable that a certain degree of teacher bitterness and defensiveness still remains.
This criticism is unfortunate because the book is fascinating especially the compelling stories of four past graduates who beat the odds with the support of some exceptional teachers and parents. There is nothing fictional about those inspiring accounts or the chapters that chronicle numerous attempts at school reform during the past four years.
The truth must truly hurt when Holland writes, "The high school has to be more than a culture of caring. Where such a culture dominates, neither teachers or students are challenged to improve nor are they held to high expectations." This statement is not aimed at all high school teachers, but it pertains to quite a few. When over 50% of a class doesn't graduate and this begins a trend that is not reversed, it's good that Holland hss the "chutzpah" to call it like it is. Agree or disagree, teachers, parents, and students whether Latino or any ethnicity will find this special book provocative and most informative.
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