PROVIDENCE – Public education in Rhode Island is strongest in school spending and standards that ensure accountability, but weakest in K-12 student achievement, according to the 2014 edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts report.
In the Rhode Island highlights of the report, entitled “District Disruption & Revival,” the state earns “B” grades for both school finances based on 2011 data and 2012 information about standards, assessments and accountability. Finance results are better than the national average of “C.” Standards are on a par with other educational districts across the country.
However, Rhode Island gets a “D+” in student achievement, compared with the national average of “C-”.
A close look at the indicators, however, reveals that Rhode Island’s achievement levels in Grades 4 through 8 are up to 3 percentage points greater than the national average and achievement gains are up to 5 points greater than the national average.
However, the poverty gap is slightly higher, achieving excellence is flat, and high school graduation rate of 71.9 percent for the class of 2010 is nearly 3 percentage points less than the national average of 74.7 percent. Advanced placement scores are also six to 10 points less than the national average.
While the nation as a whole earned a “mediocre” rating of C- for achievement, only Massachusetts earned an A, researchers found.
The report is a product of the Education Week Research Center, a research division of the Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education. The center conducts policy surveys, collects data and performs analyses for the annual Quality Counts reports, as well as independent research studies. It maintains the Education Counts and EdWeek Maps online data resources.
“There can be little doubt that the environment in which public schools operate is more complex today than ever before,” acknowledges Christopher B. Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week, in remarks released with the report.
“With more pressure to perform and expanded options available to students and their families, business as usual is no longer good enough for local school leaders who must fundamentally rethink how their school systems operate,” he states. “But whether we will look back on this proliferation of new approaches as a great age of experimentation or a period of confusion, remains very much to be seen.”
In 2011, Rhode Island spent $14,794 per pupil, the eighth-highest amount in the nation, and well above the national average of $11,864 per student. In addition, the Ocean State had 100 percent of students funded at or above the national average in per pupil expenditures, the report found. In total, spending on K-12 education amounted to 4.1 percent of state taxable resources, according to the report, 10th in the nation and greater than the 3.6 percent national average.
Other grades Rhode Island received (compared with national averages) include: