North Smithfield students make testing gains, but math & English scores still down since COVID


NORTH SMITHFIELD – Statewide assessment results show that in many cases, North Smithfield students have yet to fully recover from pandemic-related learning loses, with testing scores in several areas still down from 2019 proficiency levels.

Results from the 2022 the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System and SAT scores show that the town’s younger public school learners continue to lose ground in English Language Arts, while at the high school, math proficiency remains well below 2019 levels.

“We were very eager to see these results because of COVID, knowing the impact it had on student achievement, said Asst. Supt. and Director of Curriculum Clare Arnold during a presentation of the testing scores before the School Committee last week. “We knew full well what was happening – that it had an impact.”

On RICAS, 51.8 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 who took the test last spring were deemed proficient in ELA, down nearly 10 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Students actually lost ground in the subject since the first post-COVID tests were administered in 2021, when 54.6 percent showed proficiency in ELA.

The loss was most pronounced at the middle school, where ELA scores dropped 4 percent from 2021.

The district’s younger students have, however, made gains in math, with scores that had dropped 14.2 percentage points in 2021 now showing a modest increase from 2019. Proficiency in math rose to 50.7 percent, up from a low of 36.1 in 2021.

The gains and losses were were roughly on par with statewide trends, which saw a seven point increase in math and a two point loss in English proficiency.

“That’s significantly higher than the state,” said Arnold of the 14.6 percent math gain. “We were thrilled with that.”

At the high school, students taking the SATs, meanwhile, recovered some English language skills, with scores showing 68.6 percent proficiency, up from 63.8 in 2021. Students taking the test three years ago, before the pandemic cancelled the annual assessment in 2020, were 69.2 percent proficient in ELA.

“We are at pre-pandemic levels,” Arnold said.

But in math, recovery at the high school last year was far more modest, with 37.1 percent of students demonstrating proficiency on the SATs, still down nearly 18 percentage points from when lockdowns and quarantine requirements caused an upheaval in education not just locally, but across the country.

“Everyone went down and we kept that trend,” Arnold said. “We went down a little less than other districts, but it’s still a concern.”

Still, Arnold noted, the gains in North Smithfield demonstrate some recovery.

“The interesting thing about last year is that we came into the year really hoping it was going to be a year we could make up all of the gaps from the previous year,” said Arnold, noting that in 2021, students were still required to wear masks, socially distance and follow strict quarantine rules. “We had high absenteeism. The students weren’t always present in class.”

Scores on both tests – and in both subjects – in North Smithfield remain well above the Rhode Island average and scores in neighboring Massachusetts.

And Arnold said the losses students have experienced should not necessarily be viewed as, “regressing,” using a traffic analogy.

“We were still moving forward and students were learning,” Arnold said. “We were moving forward much slower. We just didn’t make the progress we wanted to.”

Now, she said, the district-wide learning is accelerating.

“I think we’re certainly on the right path, but we also certainly have work to do,” Arnold said.

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  1. Math scores have been down long BEFORE the COVID BS. Let’s not blame this BS virus for any educational score failures… please…. The truth lies in the long standing failed testing standards. That lead to failed basic educational practices. And the students suffer. Math has NEVER and will NEVER change. Yet, we have fools that pretend to be educators that want us to believe otherwise. And those same fools have other fools that make up “new math” and bullshit standards. The concept gets sold and sold again. But, our children continue to suffer. These “scores” continue to suck year over year. Nobody looks at the process. They just keep focusing on the students. “Our kids are stupid.” Really?? This is so pathetic. The system sucks. Not our children.

  2. Bill, I am not a union fool who actually knows how to read statistics because I actually learned math. Look at the test scores, 50% of the North Smithfield students are not proficient in math. Looking at a RI ranking is done by politicians, unions, and fools. A RI ranking is like looking at the bottom ten teams in the NFL and saying we are 2nd compared to the bottom 10. RI is 2nd in per capita spending per student in New England but last in test scores. So just as in sports if a teams spends near the top of the league they expect to be at the top of the standings. And yes in sports coaches and players are released when the team is at the bottom of the standings. The only stat in your whole analysis is the #9 ranking with no mention of the unacceptable test scores in RICAS and SATs. Also how many football games did the team win this year on the multi million dollar football field for just 6 games. Here is a saying in sports that can be applied to education. In sports owners say I like to keep the money on the field and in education I like to keep the money in the classroom. But Bill some day you will wake up and finally do some thinking of your own and realize that the RI public school educational system is failing.

  3. In North Smithfield, according to Mr. Depalo, “Test scores were awful before and after the pandemic,” and that a sports team doing so miserably would would fire its entire management. Curious, but… GoLocalProv, the online news source, annually ranks RICAS performance by school district. On 10/23/2019, just before the pandemic, North Smithfield ranked #9 among the over fifty public school districts and charter organizations in the state; and the year before, #4, just behind Barrington. This year’s ranking GoLocal has not yet published, but the Town’s results are described in detail on the RI Department of Ed’s webpage, and anyone interested can compare North Smithfield’s current achievement and compare it with any of a dozen nearby charters and public districts and gain a fair estimate of what the rank the NS school will achieve when GoLocal publishes the result. Bottom line: If any sports team had a statistician as poor as Mr. Depalo has been in this instance of the District’s performance on the RICAS tests, he would be fired. Arnold, on the other hand, were she the coach, would be awarded a bonus.

  4. Test scores where awful before and after the pandemic. If a sports team had these types of results the coach and GM would be fired. But what happens every year is the union gets a raise no matter if scores are good or bad. I am still waiting for the good scores. This is the problem with public schools that have zero shake ups, layoffs or changes in personal even though results are way below acceptable. Until employees take accountability, stop blaming everyone else, and making excuses for subpar performance nothing will ever change and improve to an acceptable level. I know the words are harsh but the truth is sometimes difficult to accept.

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