NORTH KINGSTOWN – During last week’s North Kingstown School Committee meeting, assistant superintendent Denise Mancieri gave a presentation on the district’s academic achievements and updates, covering the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS), Next Generation Science Assessment (NGAS) and accountability results.
The results from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) generally showed North Kingstown scoring higher than the state average.
While the RICAS results were released last month, the NGAS and accountability results were released just ahead of the Mancieri’s presentation.
RICAS, which was first administered in 2018, assesses students in grades three through eight and focuses on English language arts (ELA) and math skills. This year’s results showed modest improvements on both a statewide average and in North Kingstown.
RICAS is the Rhode Island’s implementation of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), the assessment tool of the nation’s highest-performing state for public education. The administration of RICAS allows the state to be easily compared to the results of Massachusetts’ system.
Because this was only the second year of administering RICAS to Rhode Island students, scores were expected to improve from last year, which ultimately showed to be true in the results for Spring 2019.
Though both the state and North Kingstown improved this year, North Kingstown scored well above the statewide average in proficiency.
The statewide average showed that only 38 percent of Rhode Island students were proficient in English and only 30 percent in math, a roughly 5 percent increase in English and 2.5 percent increase in math. On the state level, Rhode Island still fell far behind Massachusetts, with the neighboring state showing roughly 52 percent proficiency in English and 48 percent in math.
But while North Kingstown increased their proficiency margins along the same lines as the Rhode Island, the school district continued to perform much higher than the statewide average, showing increases in every school in the district.
North Kingstown was shown to be one of the highest performing districts, with 59.7% proficiency in English, the fifth-highest Rhode Island district in the state, and 50.7% proficiency in math, the fourth-highest district.
In comparison to last year, North Kingstown proficiency rates increased by 5 percent in English and 3 percent in math.
There were also several highlights within the results.
Hamilton Elementary showed to be the highest performing elementary school in English and the second-highest performing in Math, while Wickford Middle was the second-highest Rhode Island middle school in both subjects.
Fishing Cove Elementary, Stony Lane Elementary, Quidnessett Elementary, and Davisville Middle all saw increases in English and math assessments as well, all much higher than the state average.
“We’re in a great place,” Mancieri said. “We have very dedicated teachers, we have students who want to learn, we have staff members that are happy to be here. We always have room to grow, everyone has room to grow. You’re going to see here, there are areas that we do better than others.”
She also said that, while there was a slight improvement in the RICAS results from last year, the “bump” was to be expected as students, teachers and administrators gain familiarity with the assessment.
“There was a little bit of a bump. The education commissioner wants everyone to realize that there’s no trend line yet, the second year you get to know your test a little better,” Mancieri said. “I do like to say, I’d rather see the line moving up than moving down.”
The results were also broken down by grade level, demographics and subgroups, with gaps persisting between certain areas.
RICAS showed the difference in the results of students by race or ethnicity for both ELA and math.
In ELA, Asian students scored an average of 64 percent proficient, African American students scored an average of 19 percent proficient, Hispanic or Latino students scored 43 percent proficient, white students scored 63 percent proficient and students with two or more races scored 54 percent proficient.
And in math, Asian students scored an average of 64 percent proficient, African American students scored an average of 16 percent proficient, Hispanic or Latino students scored 27 percent proficient, white students scored 54 percent proficient and students with two or more races scored 38 percent proficient.
The results also included differences in subgroups, such as male and female, students with disabilities, low-income students and English language learners.
In ELA, female students scored an average of 68 percent proficient, while their male counterparts scored 52 percent proficient. Students with disabilities scored 14 percent proficient, low-income students scored 34, homeless students scored 31 and English language learners scored 22.
The math results showed an average of 50 percent of female students and 52 percent of males scoring proficient, with disabled students scoring 10, low-income students scoring 20, homeless students scoring 23 and English language learners scoring 19.
School committee member Robert Jones pointed out the difference in male and female students in the ELA results, calling it a systemic issue that hasn’t garnered enough attention from the department of education. He also said that, if the school district is ever going to reach 75 percent proficient in ELA, as Governor Gina Raimondo has set for a goal, something would have to be done about the discrepancy.
“I don’t want us to underestimate or gloss over the male-female ELA difference […] It’s in every single school district,” Jones said. “It exists, it’s prevalent. I don’t understand why this governor thinks we’re ever going to get to 75 percent reading proficiency when half of the population systematically lags behind the other 50 percent. And I wish the state would take it on rather than ignore it.”
The NGSA assesses students’ understanding of the next generation of science standards in grades 5, 8 and 11. It tests students in life sciences, physical sciences, and earth and space sciences. This was the first year that the NGSA was administered.
Among the nine North Kingstown schools that participated in the NGSA, the district scored an average of 50 percent proficient, while the statewide average was 31 percent proficient.
While the North Kingstown average was higher than the statewide average, the range among the nine schools was vast, particularly among the five elementary schools, with the lowest school, Quidnessett Elementary, scoring 23 percent proficient and the highest school, Hamilton Elementary, scored 65 percent proficient.
The secondary schools had a narrower range, with Davisville Middle scoring 54 percent proficient, Wickford Middle scoring 64 percent proficient and North Kingstown High School scoring 61 percent proficient.
Because the school department received the NGSA results a few days before the presentation, Mancieri said that the administration hasn’t “been able to dig into any of this data yet” beyond the proficiency numbers. The next step for the school department will be to have data teams and teachers meet to review the scores and adjust as needed.
The schools’ accountability scores reflect achievement or decline in ELA and math, demonstration of growth, English language proficiency, graduation rate, diploma plus, exceeding expectations, absenteeism and suspension, and low performing subgroups.
Scores range from 1 to 5, with the majority of North Kingstown schools achieving at least a 4. Attached to each school is a central reason for its score.
Hamilton was the only elementary school to receive a 5, for achievement and growth, while Fishing Cove, Forest Park and Stony Lane Elementary Schools all received a 4 for their achievement and growth. Quidnessett was the lowest-scoring elementary school at 3, though the school also received its score for achievement and growth.
There was a large difference between the two middle schools, with Davisville receiving a score of 2 and Wickford receiving a score of 5. Wickford’s high score was given because of its achievement and growth, however, Davisville’s score came because of a low achievement in English language learning students.
And the North Kingstown High School received an accountability score of 4 for achievement and growth.
Stony Lane improved from a score of 3 last year to a score of 4 this year and Hamilton moved from 4 to 5, while Davisville dropped from 3 to 2. The high school also dropped from 5 to 4 due to the diploma plus criteria, which measures the number of students taking various advanced classes and tests.
Superintendent Philip Auger explained that the accountability scores can fluctuate because of a single subcategory–as it did for Davisville, which dropped due to low scores of English language learning students–and therefore don’t paint a complete picture. He also said that Davisville scored highly in other categories.
“All the subcategories have to come in just right. You can have, school-wide, a really high performance but one subcategory can really affect that score,” Auger said. “In some respects, the star ratings are a little oversimplified.”
“There are some things we need to work on, no doubt about it. But these are good scores, including Davisville Middle School,” he added.
Jones was particularly critical of the accountability rating, stating that the English language learning students only makeup about 3 percent of Davisville Middle and therefore shouldn’t have such a sway over the school’s score.
“That English language learning population is 3 percent of the school. So three percent, 24 kids, is determining the star rating for 500 kids,” Jones said. “That I think is a problem the state needs to fix.”
“I think it’s super important to highlight subgroups that are underperforming,” he continued. “But to say that 3 percent of the kids determined the rating for the other 97 percent, to me, is a gross simplification.”
Both Jones and Auger encouraged parents to visit the Rhode Island Department of Education to further explore the accountability score details.
To conclude the presentation, Mancieri went over what was currently in place, as well as what would be in the future, to address the assessment results.
These included adding an additional English language learning teacher, drilling down the data and researching best practices. The math curriculum will also be bridged from kindergarten through grade 2 to grade 3 this year and grade 4 next year. The high school will also work with the RIDE data team on metrics, asking for cohort data to be dynamic and to receive quarterly updates.
Finally, the district will also focus on developing a high-quality curriculum for ELA for kindergarten through grade 8.
Auger said that, compared to other districts with similar demographics, North Kingstown did “tremendously well.”
“I’m very proud of the achievement levels all around North Kingstown,” Auger said. “There’s gonna be some variation. We have a very wealthy southern part of town and a not-so-wealthy northern part of town. Compared to other districts that have similar demographics to us, North Kingstown does tremendously well.”