LaPerche Elementary students ‘soar’ in RICAS testing

LaPerche Elementary students ‘soar’ in RICAS testing

Smithfield outdoes Scituate with scores

SMITHFIELD – Results from the first testing from the Rhode Island Department of Education using the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS), show Smithfield students in grades 3-8 are above average in comparison to state schools.

Smithfield schools landed in the top 10 for ELA scores, an accomplishment that did not surprise Supt. Judy Paolucci. She said students at LaPerche Elementary School in particular “soared.”

“It’s all about writing, writing, writing,” she said.

LaPerche scored 513 on ELA testing, with 58.82 percent of students tested meeting expectations, and 20.17 percent exceeding them. LaPerche tied for third in the state with Hamilton Elementary School in North Kingstown, Ashaway Elementary School in Hopkinton and Primrose School in Barrington. First is held by charter school Achievement First Iluminar Mayoral Academy Rhode Island, which scored 520 total, with 77.95 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards, 1.04 percent less than LaPerche’s combined percentage.

On average, the Smithfield district scored 500 on ELA, with 45.76 students meeting expectations, and 6.23 percent exceeding expectations.

Paolucci said LaPerche was focused on teaching students to write what they know and to explain it in writing, and the test results prove that it is working.

“We decided to focus this year (on) our district-wide improvement. We were already started on this before,” Paolucci said. “We’ll certainly be taking what we learned from LaPerche and applying it to other schools.”

Paolucci said math is a challenge in Smithfield schools. Recently, teachers were taught through a Math Advantage grant to “diagnose” students’ issues with math, and devise strategies to overcome the topics.

In the RICAS testing in math, Smithfield scored a 494 average, with 36.67 meeting expectations, and 31.14 percent of students exceeding expectations out of 1,183 students tested. Paolucci said the district will always want to do better, but Smithfield is doing “fabulous” compared to the state.

RICAS testing is slightly more difficult than the previous testing, Paolucci said, and the bar being set higher causes some disparity from prior years results.

“That doesn’t mean they’re falling behind. It means that this is a higher test,” she said to parents concerned about low scores.

She said the district will continue to challenge students to be their best, and will begin taking an in-depth look at results to continue students’ progress towards RICAS standards.

“We care about the whole child. We don’t want to be a school system where tests are the most important thing. They are important, but we want to make sure their needs are met in a variety of ways,” Paolucci said.

Nearby, Scituate schools did not test as well as Smithfield. Scituate Supt. Carol Blanchette said the district has work to do, and will take the opportunity to look at students’ performances to see where improvements can be made.

Scituate ranked 29 out of 49 state school tested in ELA, earning a score of 493 with 36.2 percent of students meeting expectations, and 2.36 percent exceeding expectations.

The district ranked 21st, with a total of 493 in math as well, with 31.14 percent of students meeting expectations and 1.18 percent exceeding expectation out of 596 students tested.

“I feel strongly about ELA. I think the middle school was stunned that they did worse in ELA than math. Now there’s a sense of urgency to correct this,” Blanchette said.

Blanchette, a former chief of teaching at the Rhode Island Department of Education, said her focus has been to standardize the curriculum this year so each student has a common knowledge base and set of skills before entering middle school.

She said grades K-8 are adopting a new ELA curriculum this year, which will help “plug the gaps” between teaching standards.

“We had pockets of really strong student performance. Overall, we have some work to do and are poised to get it done,” Blanchette said.

Blanchette said she is proud of the work being done by students and administrators, and would not like to create a “blame game” from the test results.

“Together, we can get the kids where they need to be,” she said.

Foster-Glocester school district performed well on RICAS testing, with Glocester schools earning fourth in the state in ELA and sixth in the state in math with a score of 504 and 500. In Glocester, 59.86 percent of students meet or exceed ELA expectations, and 50.7 percent meet or exceed math expectations.

Foster schools fell in the lower tier of achievement. Out of 149 students tested, 22.97 percent meet math expectations, and 32.89 meet ELA expectations.

Combined at Ponaganset Middle School, serving grades 6-8, students tested better, with 36.51 percent of students meeting ELA expectations, and 28.46 percent meeting math expectations.

Foster-Glocester Supt. Michael Barnes could not be reached for comment.

This year’s administration of the RICAS was the first for the state, which most recently used the PARCC assessment tool to evaluate students from 2014 to 2017. Students in grades 3-8 take the RICAS, while the PSAT and SAT are used at the high school level to meet federal testing requirements.

Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said in a release that Rhode Island’s partnership with Massachusetts on the RICAS “provides meaningful information for families, educators and the public, giving us a clear and common sense path forward to improve teaching and learning in Rhode Island schools.”

Unfortunately, he said, the first round of results for Rhode Island’s version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Exam (MCAS) don’t add up to the state’s neighbors just over the border, with students in Massachusetts scoring 17 percentage points above Rhode Island students in English and 21 percent better in math.

Statewide, only 27 percent of students met and exceeded expectations in math, while 34 percent of students were considered proficient in ELA. By comparison, 51 percent of students in Massachusetts met and exceeded expectations in ELA, and 48 percent did so in math.