Great Scott! Warwick school earns 4-stars

Posted 1/25/23

Principal Danny Smith says many Warwick residents he meets are iffy on the location of Harold F. Scott Elementary School – until he happens to mention the sign.

"Sometimes I just have to say …

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Great Scott! Warwick school earns 4-stars


Principal Danny Smith says many Warwick residents he meets are iffy on the location of Harold F. Scott Elementary School – until he happens to mention the sign.

"Sometimes I just have to say it's on Centreville Road, and people will just reply 'Oh, the one with the Crayola gates,’" he said.

Tucked in the woods at the end of that winding driveway with the crayon signpost is the only Warwick school to receive a four-star rating from the Rhode Island Department of Education's recently released accountability and improvement assessment.

"I think of the school as an overlooked gem," Smith said. "It's small and out of the way, so it's easy to overlook, but it's a remarkable community."

The school's recent good report card has been attracting it increased attention – especially from Warwick Public Schools. "The Scott School is really a story to celebrate," said Lisa Schultz, Warwick's Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. Many of the strategies which the district intends to expand upon have already found success at Scott.

"One really effective tool has been the use of reading and math interventionists," Smith said.

The school has two of each for every grade, K-5; one particular emphasis at Scott has been integrating the interventionists into regular classroom instruction.

“In the aftermath of the pandemic, we found that students needed more in-person adult interactions,” he explained. In addition to providing one-on-one and small group instruction with targeted members of the student population, these interventionists also work alongside teachers on a rotating basis, maintaining a presence in the classroom as well.

“We’re so lucky to have this kind of support for our kiddos,” said second grade teacher Lesley McDonnell. “By keeping them in the classroom, they already know all of the students, so we don’t have to wait until one of our pumpkins is having a problem to introduce them. They already know the students and can jump right in to bring them back up to speed.”

Allowing interventionists to target problem areas with individual students has a dramatic impact on student progress, as demonstrated by the RICAS. “I really had trouble with the tests the last time I took them,” said fifth-grader Violet Lowell. After spending much of last school year working with a reading interventionist, however, she was one of the students accounting for the school’s five-star rating in the category of growth.

“When I saw my scores, I was like ‘Wow, how did I do so well?,’” she said. “Then I realized it was all the work I did with Mrs. DeMarco.”

Interventionists first became key members of the school’s faculty during the tenure of Smith’s predecessor, Virginia Bolano. After a lengthy career with Warwick Public Schools, bringing Scott from a three to four-star school was Bolano’s final accomplishment before retirement.

“Another focus she introduced was a curriculum emphasis on critical thinking across grade levels,” Smith said. “When teaching English, we try not to just focus on the narrative, but on the reasons why each character makes their decisions. In math, it’s not just about getting the right answer, but understanding the logic. That’s been a huge emphasis in modern education, but Ms. Bolano really worked with instructors to find ways to explore those questions as early and as in-depth as possible.”

Fifth grade teacher Jennifer Macari says that promoting abstract thinking at an early age can have benefits outside of the classroom as well. “Especially in fifth grade, we’re trying to teach students to be independent thinkers and step outside of their comfort zones before going off to middle school,” she explained. “By teaching them to ask questions and build off of the ideas of others, we’re helping them adjust and giving them skills that will help them make sense of the ways life can be stressful.”

Smith admits that there are some unique advantages that may have aided Scott’s success. “We have a pretty small student body at 209,” he said (the school had 234 students at the time of the assessment).  “Together with our close-knit parent community, that makes Scott a perfect environment for these programs to be successful.”

Other aspects of the school, however, suggest that programs successful there may resonate in a broad array of environments.

“Compared to other schools in Warwick, Scott has an extremely wide geographic reach,” Smith said.  “We get students from Cowesett to Pontiac, and tons of residential pockets scattered throughout Bald Hill and Centreville Roads. So we have students from a wide variety of economic and cultural backgrounds.”

Smith indicated that much of Scott’s success with its interventionist program has been made possible by the school’s Title 1 funding.

“The PTA were the ones who identified this goal for our funding,” he said. “We really do owe our success to the incredible families that make up our community.”

According to former PTA President Stacey Atunes, that sense of community has only grown stronger since the pandemic.

“We had to start the whole organization back up again after Covid,” she explained. “But with the electronic communication we have now, parents are actually more in the loop than ever. It lets us be even more involved with classroom level decisions.”

Another reason why Scott’s strategies may have a wider applicability is the diversity of its student body.

“Approximately 42 percent of our students belong to ethnic or racial minorities,” said Smith. Notably, Scott was one of the comparatively few local schools in which no racial, linguistic or economic student subgroup was found to be low-performing relative to the larger student body.

In fact, several of the school’s multi-language learners are excelling. “I didn’t even know that I could speak English with an American accent,” said Pavnasre Karthik, whose family speaks Tamil and Telugu.  “I also didn’t know how much fun I would find our language learning group. We can even get little prizes if we get five stars on an assignment.”

If progress continues, it seems reasonable to hope that five stars might be in the Scott School’s future as well.

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