Tolman celebrates big leap on NECAP test

Tolman celebrates big leap on NECAP test

School is now outperforming others like it

PAWTUCKET - Tolman High School is continuing on its remarkable upward trajectory, scoring significant gains on the New England Common Assessment Program tests.

NECAP results from tests administered last fall show an "unprecedented" 35-point gain in the number of students who are proficient or better in writing, a 13 percent gain in reading, and a 4 percent gain in math.

Tolman is outgaining other high schools under the Rhode Island Department of Education's "priority" status, beating out cross-town rival Shea High School by 14 points in reading, three points in math, and seven points in writing.

"We're doing really well," said Tolman Principal Chris Savastano. "We're not there yet, but we're certainly moving in the right direction."

The big improvement on NECAP scores follows up news in January that Tolman had boosted its graduation rate from 57 percent four years ago to 71 percent last year.

One of the most telling signs that Tolman is making a big academic comeback can be found in the number of students who scored a "1" in math or reading this year over last year, said Savastano. Last year, 118 students scored a 1, while this year, only 81 scored that low, a "significant margin," said Savastano.

In total, 74 percent of Tolman students who took the NECAP last year scored proficient or better in reading, compared to 61 percent in 2012, while 18 percent scored proficient in math, up from 14 percent in 2012.

Savastano said Tolman's immediate goals now are to meet the requirements set out under the school's 2011 transformation plan, a state intervention that was required after three straight years of graduation rates at the school being below 60 percent.

The next goal after that is for Tolman to catch up to the state average in reading, math and writing, and the "ultimate goal is for all of our juniors every year to meet the graduation requirements," said Savastano.

Savastano said he's proud that Tolman is ahead of many Rhode Island schools that aren't under the transformation process. At a state workshop last October, local school officials were told that Tolman rated as a "52" on the state accountability scale, good enough to be a "typical school" and not the "priority school" Tolman was classified as back in 2012.

"Unfortunately, the way the game works, once you're designated as a priority school you have to stay that way for three years," said Savastano. Tolman has to stay in the priority classification through June of 2015, he said.

Savastano said the 52 rating came before both the higher graduation rate and the improvement on the NECAP scores were announced, meaning Tolman is in even better shape on the accountability scale now than it was five months ago.

If not for the transformation status, the 52 score would be good enough to put Tolman ahead of East Greenwich High School on the accountability scale, said Savastano.

Staff and students at Tolman are attributing the improved graduation rates and better test scores on a variety of factors, including lower suspension rates due to a shift in strategies, better interventions with at-risk students, better policies for keeping students learning in class during the school day, and a completely overhauled school culture that's boosted morale for everyone, among others.


I'm all for measuring progress......which is what this article reports. Super. Now keep working.......with these scores, you have a long long long way to go. Yeh, someone go tell a East Greenwich to get their act together too. These scores and ratings are nothing to celebrate. Education in this country needs to become a top priority.