Statewide testing shows drops in both reading & math proficiency at nearly all northern RI schools


Northern RI – Educators have long warned that students experienced a major learning loss during disruptions in education caused by COVID-19, and data released this week from the Rhode Island Department of Education confirms that kids across the state have lost ground in both English and math.

Districts statewide saw significant drops in proficiency in both subjects, and northern Rhode Island schools were no exception, with declining scores at all grade levels from 2019 on the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System tests and SATs.

“Despite exemplary efforts by school leaders to keep students in school, learning disruptions occurred during the year that led to hybrid/distance learning and reduced instructional time,” noted a narrative this week with the results.

Burrillville saw a district-wide a drop of 3.8 percent proficiency in English Language Arts, and a 6 percent loss in mathematics. Participation also dropped significantly from 2019 levels, with 8.9 percent less students completing the RICAS ELA testing, and 9.4 percent less submitting the math portion.

In neighboring North Smithfield, the loss was even more dramatic, with 7.1 percent less students showing ELA proficiency on test scores than in 2019, and 14.2 percent less demonstrating proficiency in mathematics.

But North Smithfield’s high performing students also had more to lose: the district was 54.6 percent proficient in ELA in pre-pandemic testing and 36.1 in math. Burrillville, by comparison, saw 26.1 percent of students showing ELA proficiency in 2019 and only 10.8 percent in math.

Foster-Glocester saw an 11.4 percent decline in English and a more modest 2.5 percent in math on RICAS and SAT tests administered in the spring. The English loss was greatest at Ponaganset Middle School, dropping from 53.6 percent proficiency in 2019 to 42.2 percent in 2021, while math took a bigger hit at the high school, from 39.1 to 31.4 percent.

Glocester saw a modest gain of 1.2 percent in ELA at the elementary school level, thanks to Fogarty Memorial School’s jump from 62.9 percent proficiency in 2019 to 65.8 in 2021. West Glocester Elementary showed a small decline of 1.8 percent in English, and an even smaller loss of .6 percent in math.

But district scores for Glocester Elementary Schools still show a major drop in mathematics, due to a massive 15.5 percent decrease in proficiency at Fogarty.

A breakdown by school in Burrillville shows modest losses at both the high school and middle school of less than 5 percent, with the exception of high school ELA, which dropped nearly 10 percent. William Callahan Elementary School saw a small gain of just over 1 percent in English, but dropped more than 14 percentage points on proficiency in math. Steere Farm Elementary had an English proficiency loss exceeding 10 percent and math declined by just over 4 percent.

In North Smithfield, the worst news came from the elementary school, where student proficiency declined significantly in both subjects, with ELA scores showing a 17.9 percent loss, and math, 16.3, over the two year learning disruption from COVID-19. But scores weren’t much better at the middle school, with 6.4 percent less students testing proficient in ELA and 11.1 percent less in math.

At North Smithfield High School, SAT scores dropped from 69.2 percent ELA proficiency in 2019 to 56.2 percent in 2021 and math decreased 18.2 percent, from 55 to 36.8.

The RICAS assessments are administered annually to students in grades 3-8, but like most states, Rhode Island did not have students take them in 2020. SAT assessments, meanwhile, are administered to all 12th- and 11th-grade high school students in Rhode Island to ensure they are ready for college and career, according to RIDE.

The narrative points out that most states did not administer a full RICAS assessment in 2021, but Rhode Island aimed to utilize the test to better gauge the effects of the pandemic on student learning. It notes that,”RI led the nation in bringing students back in person.”

And for those who would prefer to see the glass half full, RIDE delivered another positive angle on the declining scores: Rhode Island students saw less of a drop in proficiency than their neighbors in Massachusetts. English scores declined 5 percent statewide in English and 10 percent in math in Rhode Island this spring from 2019, while Massachusetts schools declined 6 percent in English Language Arts, and 16 percent in math.

Participation also took a hit in Rhode Island with a total of 10 percent less students completing RICAS testing. Only 1 in 5 Rhode Island students are currently meeting grade-level expectations in RICAS math.

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