Len Newman and Richard Kinslow's English Language Learner Class at Central Falls High School
Central Falls, RI
The city of Central Falls, the smallest municipality in Rhode Island at 1.3 square miles, is also one of the most densely populated cities in the country. With a population of about 17,000, the city houses 13,656 persons per square mile. The city's land area, mostly narrow streets lined with multi-family housing, is 98% developed, leaving limited land for further expansion. There is only one high school in Central Falls.
Central Falls ranks the highest in the state for children under age six living in poverty and for rate of community-wide limited English proficiency (29.5%, compared to the state average of 6.2%). Nearly 42% of Central Falls youth come from single-parent homes, and its rate of incarcerated parents is double that of the state.
Additionally, Central Falls ranks lowest in the state for students and for adults receiving a high school diploma. Recent state assessment test scores show that Central Falls students rank the lowest for overall student performance in the state. Other factors that place the student population at risk for educational failure include a mobility rate of 44%, compared to the state average of 18%; a graduation rate of 58%, compared to the state average of 83%; and a dropout rate of 42%, compared to the state average of 17%.
Central Falls has a history of industrial development and was at one time called Chocolate Mill, after the chocolate factory established there in 1790. The demographics have shifted dramatically over the past two decades, with the Hispanic population continuing to rise. An inner-city community, Central Falls represents a range of ethnic groups.
Student population statistics: Hispanic (64%), white (27%), and black (9%).
Student eligibility for subsidized lunch programs: 96%
Students (K-12) receiving English as a second language services or bilingual education: 30% (1999-2000)
Children under age 18 living in families headed by a person without a spouse present in the home: 38.3%
Children ages 2 to 22 receiving special education services through Rhode Island elementary and secondary schools: 26% (2002)
Median annual household income:
At Central Falls High School, the two teachers conducting the English learners class have been involved in the ArtsLiteracy Project (ArtsLit) since 1998. They have found that using the arts as a literacy strategy has improved their ability to advance students' literacy skills.
The ArtsLiteracy Project (ArtsLit) is dedicated to developing the literacy of youth through the performing and visual arts. Founded in 1998 and based in the Education Department at Brown University, ArtsLit gathers an international community of artists, teachers, youth, college students, and professors with the goal of collaboratively creating innovative approaches to literacy development through the arts. It offers a range of opportunities for teachers, artists, youth, and the arts and education community.
In ArtLit's year-round professional development program, teachers learn arts-based literacy strategies alongside artists and students, and they also address how the methodology into which these strategies fit can be incorporated meaningfully into daily classroom practice. Training begins in a summer lab school at Brown Summer High School, and the strategies are later transferred to public school classrooms during the academic year.
In the lab school, pairs of teachers and artists work together with a class of secondary school students to "bring a text to life." Coached by experienced mentors, pairs of teachers and actors research, plan, and teach a course to secondary school students; observe one another teach; debrief; reflect; and participate in a range of workshops. Students work on both performance and literacy skills based on national standards and launch a culminating performance as an exhibition of their understanding of the text. This performance process is repeated with mentors during the academic year.