The canary first wavered in Rhode Island schools' coal mine in 2005 when a state test showed that 25% of RI 4th graders were "substantially below proficient" in math — and now that those students are approaching graduation, that number has swelled to 40%. Students must test out as "partially proficient" in math, which means that Rhode Island has a year and a half to ensure that 2 out of 5 of its graduating class won't have to repeat their senior year.
Dan McGowan of WPRI.com reports that the data has been known for so many years — with no indication that the trend was getting better — that teachers and administrators aren't shocked.
"This is not something we were surprised about," Patti DiCenso, a secondary school performance officer for Pawtucket schools, said. "This is not something we knew was going to happen last year. This goes back a few years. Are we frustrated? Absolutely. Are we concerned? Absolutely."
The state has done a better job of attacking deficits in reading — districts saw improvements in achievement in that area — but math has not only continued to be a problem, but has grown in severity. And as the clock ticks, solutions are becoming more pressing.
In Providence, school officials have launched a graduation awareness campaign that maps out a strategy for its 11th graders to improve their NECAP scores and students. The plan includes:
- more rigorous academic interventions;
- the creation of personalized graduation plans for all students;
- a community engagement strategy that will promote better school attendance;
- and policy development that will engage stakeholders in the city's graduation policy.
"We are opposed to reliance on a single test for determining a student's future," Robert Walsh, the executive director of the NEA, told WPRI.com. "We support the ongoing evaluation of student achievement based on multiple measures, including authentic assessments that are directly linked to the standards, curricula and materials teachers use."