In response to the “warning” classification East Greenwich High School received from the Rhode Island Department of Education earlier this month, EGHS Principal Michael Podraza offered a response to the classification to answer the plethora of questions being asked by many throughout the community, including members of the East Greenwich School Committee.
On July 2, East Greenwich High School was one of two schools in the town – Meadowbrook Farms School being the other – to receive a “warning” classification from RIDE, just one year after it received “commended” status. EGHS was given a “warning” status for having a wider achievement gap in NECAP scores between the “Performance Reference Group,” as stated in Podraza’s explanation, and a subgroup of “Students with Disabilities.”
In the five-page document, which is linked to the East Greenwich School District’s website, Podraza clarifies with data points that were compiled from this past school year by comparing scores in the Math and Writing categories from the NECAP examinations taken by East Greenwich High School students to the results from other schools throughout Rhode Island. Podraza, according to the document, says the “warning” classification is “overshadowing” the true growth the school achieved in the 2012-13 school year.
“Needless to say, this data, in light of the high stakes nature of NECAP on our students’ ability to graduate, and the impact that it has on our school’s classification and reputation, greatly concerns us,” Podraza states in the release. “We have, and will continue to actively take steps to address this and any gaps that we may identify in our students’ learning. There is, however, other data and information that comes out as a result of this annual classification, but has not yet been disseminated to the EGHS community.”
The document states that according to the East Greenwich High School’s “Official School Report Card,” EGHS had the had the number of examined targets almost double this year and that the school met all of those targets (9-for-9), something that wasn’t the case when EGHS was a “commended” school in the previous year (3-for-5).
In the area of Mathematics, Podraza states percentage of EGHS students achieving “at or above proficiency” in Mathematics on NECAP was 70 percent in 2013, which is a five-percent growth from the previous year and a six-percent growth over a five-year period. The document also says Barrington High School is the only other school in Rhode Island that is at or above 70 percent proficient in Mathematics – well above the state average, which is at 34 percent.
“This growth puts further pressure on any gap that may already exist between all students and any subgroups,” Podraza says.”
Podraza adds that the percentage of East Greenwich High students achieving “substantially below proficient” (or lowest NECAP score) in Mathematics decreased by three percent in 2013 from 2012, while the number of students who were tested increased.
As far as the “Reading and Writing” category is concerned, Podraza says EGHS saw a four-percent improvement from a year ago in a proficiency in “Reading” to 95 percent, exceeding the state average, which is 79 percent. Classical High School is the only other school who has a similar ranking as East Greenwich High’s in that category.
In “Writing,” Podraza says 75 percent of EGHS students were proficient in 2013, which is 25 percent higher than the state average. However, Podraza says that NECAP Writing scores are “not a factor” in school classifications and “unlike NECAP Reading and Math, RIDE has not made [Writing] an area required for graduation.”
Podraza also clarified that this past school year was the first time EGHS had enough students qualify for the subgroup “Students with Disabilities” as a category the Rhode Island Department of Education uses in determining in classification. In order to qualify for any subgroup that is factored into classifications, “the group’s population must be greater than or equal to 20 students.” In addition, Podraza says if a school qualifies for a subgroup, RIDE automatically creates another category that is then also used in the classifications called “super subgroups” and it occurs “even though the school’s population may not qualify for the other subgroup that is factored.”
The super subgroup that EGHS has, according to the document, is called “Program” Super Subgroup and it “consists of students with an IEP (Individualized Education Program) along with students who are considered ELL (English Language Learners).
As far as actions made for Math and subgroups within East Greenwich High School, Podraza says the school made “major changes” to its Mathematics scope and sequence, as well as to the courses being offered to all students in Mathematics for the 2012-13 school year.
EGHS, according to Podraza, increased the number of “Math Labs” to meet the growing need and support students for them to meet the new NECAP graduation requirement.
“This class provides additional direct mathematics instruction by a certified Math teacher and supported with a Special Education teacher,” Podraza says. “Math labs support all students who meet local criteria as being in need of Mathematics support.”
Specialized sections of “Study Skills,” a Special Education support class, were designated for students with IEPs who struggle in Math during the school year, Podraza says. He adds that the number of sections of Response to Intervention (RtI) (which is taught by Special Educators) was increased in order to support struggling students and a grant funded after-school program called “Check and Connect” was implemented in last year to support students involved in RtI.
“We are proud of the hard work done every day by our students, teachers, staff, parents, and the support that the East Greenwich community provides to the high school,” Podraza says. “We are confident that in the coming years, the EGHS community will rise to the challenge of closing any achievement gaps that we may encounter, whether for groups or individuals. While we continue to be proud of the education that we provide at EGHS, we will always look to improve, because we are truly driven to empower students as lifelong learners. We believe that this is best accomplished through: a commitment to implementing and achieving the highest standards, delivering personalized instruction with student choice, and promoting real and relevant skills that our students find valuable to shape their futures.”
For more information, log onto the School District’s website at www.egsd.net .