Learning in science is gaining across South Kingstown and Narragansett schools according to the May 2011 New England Common Assessment Program test results just released.
According to results, the number of students in South Kingstown and Narragansett scoring at or above proficient has increased.
In South Kingstown, middle and high school students have made significant gains in the science tests given last May, while scores increased steadily for middle and elementary students in Narragansett.
However, scores decreased slightly for South Kingstown elementary school students and Narragansett High School students.
The NECAP tests are administered to three grades each year, 4th, 8th and 11th grades and tests math, reading, science and writing. The assessments are meant to provide information to school administrators, teachers, and parents to help them make informed decisions about student instructional needs. The tests were developed in 2008 when Rhode Island partnered with Massachusetts and Vermont to develop grade level expectations through the NECAP tests.
The tests are based on four scoring levels: proficient with distinction, proficient, partially proficient and substantially below proficient. A score of proficient indicates minor gaps in the prerequisite knowledge and skills needed to participate and perform successfully in instructional activities aligned with the GSE at the current grade level.
According to the results, South Kingstown was cited for being one of 11 districts to make significant gains from last year in at least one grade and is one of seven to make statistically significant gains since 2008 in the same grade.
The district made significant gains across the middle and high school level. At Curtis Corner Middle School, 8th graders at Curtis Corner Middle School were noted for the significant gains from 2010 to 2011. The number of students scoring proficient increased by 14 percent. In 2010, 43.1 percent scored proficient in science. In 2011, 57.3 percent scored proficient. From 2008 to 2011, there was a 13.4 percent increase in students scoring proficient. In 2008, scores were 43.9 percent.
Curtis Corner Middle School Principal Michele Humbyrd credited the high scores with the increase in writing across the curriculum.
“Students are learning how to respond when they're doing their investigation and how to support their writing and reasoning. Teachers improved science work during the learning center to extend learning for science. It's paid off,” Humbyrd said.
To keep scores high, Humbyrd said the middle school will look at the NECAP results, determine strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments from there.
At South Kingstown High School, 50.6 percent of 11th graders scored proficient, up 7.4 percent from 43 percent in 2010. From 2008 to 2011, an increase of 14.9 percent of 11th graders scored proficient, a significant increase.
South Kingstown High School Principal Robert McCarthy credited the students for applying what they learned and the science department for helping students focus on the key elements of the assessment.
“The science department deserves credit for looking at these scores, determining where they excelled, looking at the curriculum and making adjustments,” McCarthy said. “They look where in their curriculum they have to emphasize and link NECAP scores to local assessments.”
McCarthy said teachers noticed students were struggling on the constructive response part of the test. As a result, when students enter the 9th grade, teachers teach them how to attack the constructive response question.
“We're a school that looks at continuous improvement and link instruction to the types of questions that kids are being asked to perform and made sure they're covering all the information they need to,” McCarthy said.
To keep improving, McCarthy said the high school will continue to look at the NECAP scores, look at local assessments and see where students are doing well, where they are struggling and how to improve.
The elementary level in South Kingstown, however, saw a slight decrease in 4th graders scoring proficient. In 2011, 69.2 percent scored proficient, down 1.6 percent from 70.8 in 2010. On a good note, from 2008 to 2011, 17.1 percent more scored at or above proficient in science at the 4th grade level, which is noted as a statistically significant increase. Peace Dale Elementary School is noted for its significant increase of 22.6 percent of 4th graders scoring at or above proficient from 2008 to 2011.
In Narragansett, the elementary school was noted for its significant gains. At Narragansett Elementary School, students scoring proficient increased by 18.5 percent from 48.1 percent in 2010 to 66.7 percent in 2011.
“This did not happen by chance. It happened through the hard work of all of the NES staff and students and I am so proud of their efforts. This is a perfect example of hard work paying off,” Gail Dandurand, Principal of Narragansett Elementary School said.
Dandurand credited teachers' training with GEMS Net on writing in science in helping students improve their scores. During the training, teachers met to discuss how to better infuse writing with their science experiments/observations.
“We are hoping our scores will be even better in the future because students will have multiple years exposure to writing in Science,” Dandurand said.
Narragansett Superintendent of Schools Katherine Sipala noted how Narragansett schools exceed the state average at all levels.
Forthy-three percent for elementary, 25 percent for middle school and 26 percent for high school are the state averages while Narragansett scores are 67 percent, 42 percent and 42 percent proficient or above respectively.
“Of course, we are looking for improvement beyond those figures. The Pier School is also working with GEMS Net Teachers in Residence this year, particularly in writing in science, as this has been found to be a positive contributor to science score improvement in some other Gems Net districts, particularly at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown,” Sipala said.
At the Pier Middle School, scores increased by 8.7 percent proficiency, from 32.6 percent to 41.8 percent.
At Narragansett High School, scores decreased by 9.4 percent from 50.4 percent proficiency in 2010 to 41.1 percent proficiency this year. However, since 2008, scores at the high school have increased by 14.1 percent.
Across the state, roughly 32 percent of public school students were at or above proficient in science, up from three points in May 2010. Additionally, there were lower percentages of students across the state in all three tested grades that scored in the below proficient category.
According to the report, in 4th grade approximately 44 percent of students were or above in science, representing no statistically significant difference from last year’s results. In Grade 8, roughly 25 percent of students were at or above proficient, representing the second largest gain, up three percent, of the three grades tested compared to results from last year’s test. Grade 11 had the largest gain, up five percent, with roughly 26 percent of students across the state scoring at or above proficient in science.
Rhode Island students continue to lag behind their peers in New Hampshire and Vermont on the NECAP Science Assessment. Results indicate that Rhode Island students in 4th grade are the furthest behind their peers, with an 11 point and 9 point difference compared to 4th graders in New Hampshire and Vermont, respectively.