EAST PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Education recently released this year’s NECAP Science test results, and for the second year in a row East Providence High School students have made statistically significant gains.
EPHS Principal Janet Sheehan announced to the school that the results of this year’s test show that EPHS has improved the test average by nearly 35 points since 2008, one of the best gains in Rhode Island.
In 2008, the first year of the test, only 8.2% of EPHS students received a proficient rating on the Science NECAP. The following year, a committee of faculty and administrators met in an effort to better align the Science curriculum to the NECAP. With improvements to the curriculum and increased efforts on the part of students and teachers, EPHS scored a solid 43% proficiency rating on the most recent tests.
“Students and teachers have worked extremely hard to make these improvements,” said Ms. Sheehan. “These gains are impressive because everyone worked together to make them happen. The consistent results show that it is not a fluke.”
As well as having one of the highest gains in proficiency, this year’s seniors boosted East Providence High School’s NECAP scores above the statewide average proficiency rate. Science Department Chair Ellen Will credits changes to the academic requirements in the science curriculum as well as the way students take the test itself.
“We have been using released items from past tests as practice for the students,” said Ms. Will. “We also collaborate on all of our work, use common assessments and common teaching practices. We do a lot of things together, and we work very hard to coordinate what we are teaching.”
Another reason for the rising science scores may be improvements in the English and math departments. The Science NECAP requires students to explain answers in writing and also solve mathematical problems in science.
“We can see an improvement in reading and writing,” said Ms. Will. “Students’ answers are more detailed. They are supporting their statements and that all comes from the ELA department.”
Until recently, NECAP proficiency was not a requirement for graduation, but changes in state regulations have put pressure on schools to meet the requirements of the test.
“Students understand the importance of doing well as part of their graduation requirement,” Ms. Sheehan said. “They take the tests much more seriously than they did in the past.”
The importance of the NECAP has also led school leaders to focus more time and effort on the administration of the test. In past years, students were assigned randomly to testing classrooms without much thought about how the testing environment affected particular individuals. For the past few years, however, assistant principal Shani Wallace has looked at room assignments well in advance of the test to ensure that students are in a place most conducive to testing.
“Some students do best in particular environments, depending on their learning needs,” said Ms. Wallace. “Even though it is difficult to do with 300 to 400 kids, the extra attention that we give to the space in which students take the test might be the difference between a proficient and non-proficient rating.”
The improvement of scores on the Science NECAP by the Class of 2013 is no small achievement and the EPHS community applauds them for it.
“We just appreciate how hard the students are working,” said Ms. Will, “They are putting a lot of effort into their work, and we see that, and thank them for it.”
Editor’s Note: Rachel Nallen is an EPHS senior writing as part of the collaborative between The East Providence Post and the school news site, thetownie.net.