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NECAP a mixed bag

February 9, 2011

Rhode Island High School students made gains in Reading and Math… But overall just 33 percent of 11th graders are proficient in Math, leaving plenty of room for improvement.

That’s the latest from the New England Common Assessment Program, the test taken each year by thousands of Rhode Island schoolchildren.

State officials released the numbers in Woonsocket, an example, they say, of an urban area where schools are improving.

However, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said she is concerned by a lack of progress last year in elementary schools and persistent gaps for low-income and minority students.

“This must change,” said Gist. “We as a state have to work on our belief that all students can be successful.”

Overall, 55 percent of students were proficient or better in mathematics, an increase of one percent from 2009. 71 percent were proficient or better in reading, about the same as 2009.

High school students outperformed their peers in New Hampshire and Vermont in both reading and writing. Math was a different story with Rhode Island performing worse than other NECAP states.

Still, state officials say they feel schools are heading in the right direction. All grade levels have made progress since the state began administering the test, and high schools in particular showed some improvement in 2010.

Urban schools continue to score significantly lower than their suburban counterparts. State officials say they stand behind their overall plan for public school reforms including a focus on improving teacher quality and a push for tougher teacher evaluations.

Meanwhile, test scores at troubled Central Falls High School fell last year in English and Writing. Math scores went up by one percentage point, but reading scores dropped 11 points and writing scores were down 10 points. School officials attribute the decline to turmoil at the school surrounding a turnaround plan that nearly resulted in mass faculty firings.

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