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By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
WARWICK – At an event Wednesday at the Warwick Public Library, Rhode Island Kids Count Policy Analyst Stephanie Geller presented Warwick-centric data from the 2012 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook, showing the improvements and declines in the well-being of the city’s children and youth.
The “Warwick Data in Your Backyard” presentation was created in partnership with the Warwick Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse and showed that Warwick students continue to make progress in reading, math and graduation and showed fewer cases of child abuse or neglect, but also showed a high teen pregnancy rate and that fewer women are receiving early prenatal care.
Between 2005 and 2011, the percentage of fourth-grade students in Warwick that read at, or above, proficiency increased from 71 percent to 77 percent, higher than the overall Rhode Island rate of 71 percent.
The percentage of eighth-grade students in Warwick that read at or above proficiency improved even more dramatically, from 59 percent in 2005 to 84 percent in 2011, higher than the overall Rhode Island average rate of 77 percent.
“Reading proficiency is critical for academic success. Prior to third grade children are learning to read; after third grade children are reading to learn,” Elizabeth Burke, executive director of R.I. Kids Count, said in a statement. “Students who have poor reading skills will have trouble completing coursework and graduating from high school. Early warning systems can help identify students who are struggling with reading and falling behind their peers.”
The Kids Count report also reported improvements in math proficiency, in which the number of Warwick’s fourth-grade students who were at or above proficiency in math increased from 63 percent to 70 percent from 2005 to 2011, and was higher than the state’s 2011 rate of 65 percent.
The percentage of eighth-grade students in Warwick at or above proficiency in math increased from 52 percent in 2005 to 58 percent in 2011, matching the overall state rate.
“Improvements in curriculum, instructional materials, assessments, classroom practice, teacher preparation, and professional development all can help to increase math proficiency among students,” said Gellar in a statement.
According to the presentation, high school graduation rates in Warwick improved “substantially” in recent years. In 2011, 82 percent of students graduated from high school in four years, an 18 percentage point increase from 2007. The four-year graduation rate for the state as a whole was 77 percent.