Rhode Island NECAP science scores improved in grade eight for the fourth consecutive year, while declining slightly in grades four and 11, the Rhode Island Department of Education recently reported.
Overall, 33.8 percent of tested students in the state attained the level of proficiency or better on the 2013 NECAP science assessments, which all students in grades four, eight and 11 took last May. The statewide results represent a decline of 1 percentage point from last year and an increase of 10 percentage points since NECAP science assessments began five years ago.
Results have also improved over the last five years in Chariho.
In the Chariho school district, 55.6 percent of the 819 students tested earned a score considered “at or above proficient,” an increase of 21 percent since 2008, when 34.5 percent of 857 students tested attained a score that was “at or above proficient.”
RIDE considers the improvement made over the last six years in the Chariho school district to be a “statistically significant” increase.
“Relatively speaking, we’re doing well when you’re comparing us to other districts,” said Superintendent Barry Ricci. “There’s still room for growth. We can do better at particular grade levels. There’s always room for improvement and we will continue to work on that.”
According to RIDE data, Chariho ranked 10th highest in NECAP science proficiency and seventh highest in growth over the six years. The district also ranked 10th in NECAP science score growth over six years.
In South County, South Kingstown ranked eighth, Narragansett ranked 12th, Exeter-West Greenwich ranked 13th, North Kingstown ranked 14th and Westerly ranked 15th in proficiency.
Exeter-West Greenwich ranked fourth in growth, Westerly ranked eighth, North Kingstown ranked 14th and South Kingstown ranked 21st.
However, while Chariho showed long-term growth, the percentage of students attaining proficient decreased by 2.1 percent compared to the 2012 results.
“We’re always going to have some fluctuation [in scores] because there are different kids,” Ricci said. “The kids have changed and I don’t think the fluctuation has been statistically significant. I just want to make sure that our trend over time is in the right direction.”
And it is, as all schools in the Chariho school district have shown an increase in the percentage of students attaining proficiency since 2008.
The largest percentage increase of students tested who attained proficiency was seen in eighth graders at Chariho Middle School. On the most recent test last May, 57.5 percent of the 294 students tested achieved proficiency, compared with only 30.6 percent of the 291 students tested in 2008, a difference of 26.9 percent.
Test takers in 11th grade at Chariho High School also showed a statistically significant improvement of 19.6 percent. In May, 41.5 percent of 215 students tested were proficient, compared with 21.8 percent of the 284 students tested in 2008.
Fourth graders at Chariho’s elementary schools fared well on the exam, with between 68.3 percent and 73.5 percent of students tested at each school attaining proficiency.
At Ashaway Elementary, 72.2 percent of the 54 fourth graders tested achieved proficiency, as was the case with 70.7 percent of the 58 fourth graders tested at Charlestown Elementary, 68.3 percent of the 41 students tested at Hope Valley Elementary and 73.5 percent of the 83 students tested at Richmond Elementary.
All of the elementary students also saw an increase in the percentage of students attaining proficiency since 2008, but, with the exception of Richmond Elementary, experienced a decline in the percentage of students achieving that mark since 2012.
At Ashaway Elementary, the difference in the percentage of students achieving proficiency in 2008 versus those who achieved the necessary score in 2013 was 21.2 percent. However, that number decreased by 1.4 percent between the 2012 and 2013 tests.
The situation was similar at Charlestown Elementary, where the difference in proficiency over six years was 22.8 percent increase but a 1.2 percent decrease since 2012.
At Hope Valley Elementary, there was a 9.1 percent difference in the percentage of students attaining proficiency over six years, but the school saw a decrease of 10.7 percent over the last year.
At Richmond Elementary, students have continued to show growth in NECAP science scores, with a difference of 14.5 percent between 2008 and 2013 and 2.1 percent since 2012.
Ricci attributes the success of Chariho students to an examination and improvement of the science curriculum to better align it with state standards.
“Writing in science has been an emphasis here for a few years,” he said. “We do NECAP practice and we do things that will help our kids to perform better.”
However, Ricci said there is still work to be done.
“While I’m really pleased with great work our students and teachers have done in science, we’re still looking for improvement in some areas,” he said. “Helping students to explain their reasoning and explain their thinking is always an area that can be improved upon.”
Ricci said administrators have also learned that some high school juniors are not enrolled in a science course their junior year when they have to take the NECAP.
“They take a science class as a freshman, sophomore or senior maybe, but they’re not actually enrolled in a science class during the time they’re taking the test,” he said. “We’re looking at that. We may make some adjustment there. Generally speaking, it’s more about making sure we’re teaching the right content at the right grade level and making sure that kids are able to explain their thinking.”
Charter school students in South County fared well on the NECAP science test.
The Compass School in Kingston, had the highest percentage of students attaining “at or above proficient” in the state. At the school, which only has fourth and eighth graders, 75 percent of students achieved “at or above proficient” in May, a 21.4 percent improvement since 2008, when only 53.6 percent of students achieved that mark.
Kingston Hill Academy had the fifth highest percentage of students achieving proficiency at 63.4 percent. However, Kingston Hill educates students in kindergarten through fifth grade, which means that they only test fourth graders.