By BENJAMIN BRANCHAUD
SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Despite examination of the NECAP scores by some members of the school committee at the midyear retreat, one school committee member takes issue with the lack of presentation of last year's scores by the superintendent.
In recent years, the superintendent has made a point to present the NECAP scores to the school committee through a specific agenda item. This year, four months after the release of the NECAP scores by RIDE, that presentation has not been made.
"I find it very difficult to understand why that is," said Daly-LaBelle at the end of Tuesday night's meeting. "We're supposed to be trying to evaluate what our children's needs are. It's very difficult to do that when it's not being presented where they're at."
Daly-LaBelle believes that the reasoning for the lack of official presentation by the Superintendent is that the scores shine a less-than favorable spotlight on the district's special education department and the budgetary staff cuts in the special education department this year.
"My calculation is that our standing has fallen," said Daly-LaBelle. "Tia Beckman has supplied statistics to us that really show that students with IEPs in area districts are performing substantially better than they are performing here. This is happening as staff is being cut."
Tia Beckman, a special education advocate, has spoken at several school committee and town council meetings regarding the budget cuts to special education staff and the 'second-rate' special education in the South Kingstown District.
"I was informed that 4.8 special education staff were reduced last year with the projection of three more this year," said Beckman at Tuesday's meeting. "A reduction of students with special education needs was stated as the reason these reductions are being made. Do we have that many less students who would benefit from special education? Statistics of dyslexia remain the same - 15 to 20 percent of the population. My thought - be it correct or not, is that the teachers are being asked to take on more responsibilities."
Reading scores for students with IEPs in South Kingstown, while up from last year, are drastically lower than the surrounding districts. While 69 percent of IEP students in South Kingstown scored below proficiency in reading, that number drops to 22 percent in Narragansett, 27 percent in Chariho and 30 percent in Westerly.
Though neighboring districts, Narragansett and Westerly are not considered "comparable districts" to South Kingstown. Still, some are concerned with the gaps in the data between the neighboring towns.