By Cynthia Drummond and Dale P. Faulkner
Stun staff writers
PROVIDENCE — Two months later than expected, the results of the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System standardized tests were released Thursday and showed that students in Westerly and Chariho scored higher than the statewide averages.
The 2017-18 administration of the test was the first for Rhode Island, which previously used the PARCC test (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).
RICAS, the Rhode Island version of the MCAS in Massachusetts, is now administered along with the SAT and PSAT tests, which are given to students in Grades 10 and 11. Together, the two sets of tests constitute Rhode Island’s testing protocol.
“Through RICAS, we now have a true apples-to-apples comparison of how we perform compared to Massachusetts, the gold standard for education in America and beyond,” Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said. “This partnership provides meaningful information for families, educators, and the public, giving us a clear and common sense path forward to improve teaching and learning in Rhode Island schools.”
The tests were administered last spring to students in Grades 3 to 8 with 98 percent of students participating, a 10 percent increase over the participation rate when the state adopted the unpopular PARCC assessment in 2015.
RICAS assessed student performance in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Statewide, the average score for students meeting or exceeding expectations in English was 33.7 percent. In math, the average was 27 percent. The percentage of students not meeting expectations was 19.8 percent in English and 22 percent in math.
The Rhode Island scores are significantly lower than those in Massachusetts: 17 percent lower on average in English and 20 percent lower in math. Daniel McConaghy, who chairs Rhode Island's Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, said he was concerned.
“Rhode Island will not get where we need to be until we raise expectations and engage in the sustained, consistent work that made Massachusetts a leader," McConaghy said. "We have hard work ahead of us, and we cannot back down.”
Local test results
In Westerly, 40 percent of the district's students met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts, and 13 percent did not meet expectations. In mathematics, 33 percent met or exceeded expectations and 14 percent did not meet expectations.
Westerly Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said the RICAS, because it is new in Rhode Island, gives school districts throughout the state a chance to "reset."
Massachusetts, which is viewed as the highest performing state in the country, has used the test as an assessment tool for 20 years.
“Massachusetts, with a laser focus, didn’t get distracted and that’s what we are doing in Westerly,” said Garceau, who worked in Massachusetts before coming to Westerly about 16 months ago.
Garceau plans to present an accelerated improvement plan to the School Committee next month. The plan will focus on strengthening instruction for children districtwide. “Even if we get all of our kids to a meeting or exceeding expectations level on the test it won’t be good enough because we have to focus on always improving,” Garceau said.
In the Chariho Regional School District, 54 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts, and 6.5 percent did not meet expectations. In mathematics, 44.8 percent of students met expectations and 6.7 percent did not.
Chariho Superintendent Barry Ricci said the results were about what he had expected.
“Our results on the RICAS are respectable, but we can certainly do better,” he said. “We expected a decline, as did all districts, because a student would need to get more answers correct on RICAS to score at the same level as was reported on PARCC. There is no way to compare results from PARCC to RICAS as the ‘cut’ scores for RICAS are higher. For example, a student would have to get more items correct on RICAS than PARCC to be categorized as ‘exceeded expectations’. There’s no argument from me on the higher expectations. Massachusetts is widely recognized as the highest performing state in the country.”
The results for individual schools are available on the RIDE website: