(The Center Square) – Most Rhode Island students are not meeting educational benchmarks, according to results of the latest statewide assessment tests that were released Thursday.
The Rhode Island Department of Education reports that 45.2% of all students are partially meeting educational benchmarks. The department released the latest Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) scores that show a decline in test scores amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Performance on RICAS testing is down 5% from 2019, and that only one-third of students in grades 3-8 are proficient in English. On the math side, performance is down 10% from 2019 and only 1 in 5 Rhode Island students in grades 3-8 are proficient in math.
The COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report, created a unique education system with hybrid learning models that directly affected scores. English proficiency went from 33.71% of students meeting benchmarks in 2018 to 38.48% in 2019 and down to 33.19% in 2021. In math, 27.31% of students were meeting and exceeding expectations in 2018, compared to 29.76% in 2019 and 20.07% in 2021.
Seth Magaziner, who serves as state treasurer and has tossed his hat into the ring in the governor’s race, said, “Today’s RICAS student scores are further proof we have a lot of work to do to improve our educational system.”
Today's RICAS student scores are further proof we have a lot of work to do to improve our educational system. pic.twitter.com/f6b2rN97bc— Seth Magaziner (@SethMagaziner) October 28, 2021
State Sen. Sam Bell, D-5, said in a tweet, “RICAS scores are a terrible metric, but it is ironic to see people at McKee’s RIDE who argue they are a good metric still post very poor RICAS scores. Conditions like a pandemic, poverty, not teaching to the test, and lead poisoning have a massive effect."
RICAS scores are a terrible metric, but it is ironic to see the people at McKee's RIDE who argue they are a good metric still post very poor RICAS scores. Conditions like a pandemic, poverty, not teaching to the test, and lead poisoning have a massive effect. https://t.co/UYjwgmPT3Q— Sam Bell (@SamuelWBell) October 28, 2021
According to the results, the department is reporting that one-third of students are proficient in literacy and only 20% are proficient in math. When it comes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test, 26% of students are prepared for college math and 48% are ready for college literacy.
The RICAS tests were administered to 55,005 students in English and 54,711 in math. However, there was a 10% decline in students who tested due to the pandemic.
Department officials said in the report that a 5.3% decline in English shows the importance of parents establishing reading routines at home. The department said commitment from state and local leaders is needed to improve third-grade reading scores.
In math, the department said that with a 9.7% decline in scores, school leaders need to identify interventions and provide in- and out-of-school tutoring to boost student learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic, according to the department, affected classroom learning in 2020 as 35% of students were in classrooms more than 75% of school days and 28% of students were in-person learners less than 25% of school days.
Of those in-classroom learners, 27% of those students were proficient in math compared to just 13% of virtual students. In English, 39% of students who learned in classrooms were proficient compared to just 26% of virtual students.
The state, according to the report, saw a decline in both subjects and will establish new baselines for future educational planning, but saw less of a drop in scores than Massachusetts.
Moving forward, the department said the state is providing school districts funding for assessments to measure and monitor school learning next year, and schools are encouraged to assess students who did not participate in testing last school year in order to identify learning gaps and provide support in those areas.