Town’s schools on par with disappointing statewide RICAS scores

Town’s schools on par with disappointing statewide RICAS scores

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner said the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System, or “RICAS,” – the state’s newly adopted standardized test format – would give officials an “apples to apples comparison of how we perform compared to Massachusetts, the gold standard for education in America and beyond.”

Unfortunately, the first round of result’s for R.I.’s version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Exam don’t add up to the state’s neighbors over the border. Students in Mass. scored 17 percentage points above R.I. students in English and 21 percent better in math.

North Providence School Committee Vice Chair Gina Picard said the scores are “a call to action, not only for North Providence, but for our state.” 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 students in Mass. met and exceeded expectations in ELA, and 48 percent did so in math.

“Massachusetts has been a global leader and we stand to learn a lot from them,” Picard continued. “Massachusetts has a statewide curriculum framework that has provided its students and teachers with rigorous teaching and learning opportunities. It is unfortunate that R.I. has not yet adopted a statewide curriculum framework. We need to raise the bar.”

North Providence earned an average ELA scaled score of 490, the same as the state average. Twenty-nine percent of North Providence students both met and exceeded expectations, less than the statewide percentage of 33.7. Only 26.7 percent of students met expectations, and 2.3 exceeded expectations. A total of 54.4 percent of students only partially met expectations, and 16.6 percent did not meet expectations at all in ELA.

On the math section of the test, North Providence earned an average score of 484, three percentage-points less than the statewide math average. Statewide, 27.3 percent of students met and exceeded expectations in math, compared to 20 percent in North Providence. Nineteen percent of students met expectations, 58.2 percent only partially met expectations, and 21.8 percent did not meet expectations for their grade level.

Excluding the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, DCYF and the Urban Collaborative, North Providence ranked in the bottom 10 for its number of students who partially meet expectations in math. Only 0.66 percent of students “exceeded” expectations in North Providence, the 10th worst in the state.

“This is not a time for excuses or finger-pointing,” Picard said. “Our children deserve an education that will prepare them for college and career.”

While Picard noted that North Providence began writing a curriculum several years ago and that the district has increased professional development opportunities for its educators, she said attention should be turned to providing children with “rigorous learning in the classroom that our teachers have the resources necessary to differentiate for all learners.” She said she strongly believes that the students and staff in the district are up to the challenge.

Assistant Superintendent Louise Seitsinger echoed Picard, noting that this year’s results are a baseline. From here, the district and its schools will, “review and analyze the data, drill down trends, strengths and needs.”

“I feel very confident we’re moving in the right direction,” Seitsinger said, adding that she’ll be taking a close look at the district’s curriculum to make sure it’s “rigorous and coherent.” While she doesn’t believe in “teaching to the test,” step one for improving results and overall performance is “excellence in our curriculum, and incorporating foundational improvements and more support for teachers in the classroom.”

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.

Students taking the RICAS are tested in ELA and math, earning a score out of a possible 560 on each area. Scores ranging from 440 to 470 do not meet expectations, and scores of 470 to 500 “partially” meet expectations.

To meet expectations and be considered proficient for the student’s grade level, students must score between 500 and 530, while scores from 530 to 560 are considered “exceeding expectations.”

In Rhode Island’s inaugural implementation of the RICAS, 40 percent of 3rd-graders met or exceeded expectations, 38 percent for grade 4, 37 percent for grade 5, 34 percent for grade 6, 24 percent for grade 7, and 28 percent for grade 8.

In mathematics, 35 percent of 3rd graders met or exceeded expectations, 27 percent for grade 4, 27 percent for grade 5, 25 percent for grade 6, 27 percent for grade 7 and 23 percent for grade 8.