R.I. education chief says improved RICAS scores not enough

PROVIDENCE – About 38% of Rhode Island students in grades 3 to 8 met or exceeded expectations in English and nearly 30% in math in statewide standardized tests given in 2018-2019, according to results released by the R.I. Department of Education on Tuesday.

The latest results of the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System are a 4-percentage-point improvement over the previous year’s results in English language arts, and 3-percentage-point improvement in math, RIDE said.

The scores lag behind the performance of students in Massachusetts, who scored 14 percentage points higher in English language arts than Rhode Island students and 19 percentage points higher in math on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System in 2018-2019.

“These results are moving in the right direction, but it is too early to determine a consistent trend,” Angélica Infante-Green, Rhode state education commissioner, said in a news release. “What is clear is that much more needs to be done to bring Rhode Island performance where it needs to be.

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“We have high standards, a strong assessment, a lot of great work happening in our schools,” Infante-Green added. “Now it’s time to stay the course and double down on the things that will move us forward, faster, in order to improve outcomes for students.”

RICAS results varied drastically among Rhode Island communities. Typically, suburban towns fared better.

In Barrington, 72.9% of students in grade 3 to grade 8 met or exceeded expectations in English language arts testing, the highest rate in Rhode Island. Meanwhile, in Providence, 17.2% reached that benchmark. Performance was lowest in Central Falls: 12.6%.

In math, Barrington had 64.6% of the students meet or exceeded expectations, while Providence had 11.9% and Central Falls was at the 7.9% mark.

Infante-Green noted “significant equity gaps,” saying the test results for “differently abled and multilingual learners” showed proficiency levels below 10%.

“Calling out these achievement gaps is so important,” the commissioner said. “We need to name equity gaps, talk about them and establish intentional strategies to better serve all students. All means all, and we cannot effectively serve all students by doing more of the same.”

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