“We’re coming back.”
That is what Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore heard from local teachers while visiting the high school earlier this …
“We’re coming back.”
That is what Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore heard from local teachers while visiting the high school earlier this month.
Students are engaged and learning, he said. Teachers continue to work hard delivering lessons, he said. And results from the recent round of standardized assessments place Barrington at or near the top in just about every category statewide.
“I’ve been in the schools. Are we back to where we were? Yes, we’re back,” Messore said.
The superintendent said the district has bounced back from the challenges posed by the pandemic — distance learning, long absences for student and teacher quarantines, and other issues. Messore said his recent visit was a clear indication that the local schools are rebounding nicely.
And in many cases, the recent round of assessments show scores that are at or above pre-pandemic levels.
Take Primrose Hill School for example.
In 2018-19, about 64 percent of students who took the math RICAS (Rhode Island Common Assessment System) test, met or exceeded expectations. That figure dropped to 48.6 percent in 2020-21, as students and teachers coped with distance learning and other challenges. But in 2021-22, Primrose Hill School students’ scores rebounded to 68.8 percent meeting or exceeding expectations on the math RICAS.
Other Barrington schools offered their own success stories.
At Hampden Meadows School, the 2020-21 math RICAS scores dropped to 51.9 percent meeting or exceeding expectations, but this year’s results increased to 59.8 percent. That figure is better than results from 2017-18 (57 percent) and 2018-19 (56.8 percent).
At Sowams Schools, 67.6 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the English Language Arts RICAS tests this year. That score is better than results from 2018-19 (62.7 percent) and from 2020-21 (66.2 percent).
At Nayatt School, results for both the math RICAS and ELA RICAS were better than results from 2020-21, and they surpassed the marks from 2017-18.
Messore and other school officials said there is still room for improvement in other areas.
During a recent school committee meeting, the district’s assistant superintendent Paula Dillon shared a presentation about the recent standardized assessment results in Barrington.
“Our goal is to get back to pre-pandemic status and then excel from there,” Dillon said, adding that in many cases Barrington has already reached that goal. In other areas “We’re almost there,” she said.
Dillon said many areas of the country experience tremendous drops in student achievement and are not rebounding. She said some of the lower assessment scores are related to student and teacher absences — Dillon referenced the 10-day quarantine requirements in the schools for individuals who tested positive for Covid-19.
But in many cases, Barrington did not see the drastic drops that other districts experienced.
“In terms of the state performance, Barrington didn’t see the declines,” Dillon said during the meeting.
The local public schools also bucked a state trend for lower participation rates. Barrington schools had 95 percent or higher participation rates for nearly every assessment.
The lone exception was the state’s NGCA science assessment, where Barrington had 85 percent participation. Dillon said some high school students opted to not sit for the assessment, as it is not a high school graduation requirement and it was given at the same time as Advanced Placement tests.
She also said the lower participation rate could impact federal accountability requirements and become a consideration with national rankings.
Messore said the science assessments are given at the “worst time of year” for high school students.
“We brought that to the state’s attention,” Messore said during a recent interview. “Our kids are kind of burned out (on testing) at that point.”
The slightly lower participation rate on the NGSA science assessment did not negatively impact the results — Barrington scores easily exceeded the state averages. In Barrington, 63 percent of students met or exceeded expectations, while that figure dropped to 30.9 percent statewide.
Keys to success
During the school committee meeting, Dillon spent time talking about the district’s approach to addressing areas in need of support.
Already, Barrington has hired additional staff to help in the effort: an instructional coach at the high school; two reading specialists at Primrose Hill School (where the district identified the greatest needs for literacy support); a part-time reading teacher at Nayatt; a part-time literacy coordinator at Hampden Meadows School; and an additional multi-lingual learner teacher.
The district has also made investments in professional development and an extended summer learning program.
Dillon said school officials are already planning some additional changes to further improve teaching and learning in Barrington. She said Barrington was also making an adjustment to the math curriculum for Grades 6 to 8. Dillon said there are two versions of the curriculum.
“We have realized that the accelerated version is what our students need,” she said, adding that the district is currently transitioning to it.
As for the math RICAS results, Dillon said there has been “Lots of good growth. Lots happening, in a very, very positive direction.”
District officials acknowledged that special education students were hit particularly hard by the challenges of the pandemic. Dillon said Barrington is working hard to address the needs there: the district has hired a new special education liaison for all grades; there is a new assistant special education director; Barrington schools have conducted a special education audit; and the district is teaching educators about new interventions for students.
Dillon added: “And fortunately, we’re delivering in-person instruction.”