Good news, bad news for Bristol Warren in state assessments

School officials present analysis of student testing to school committee

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 11/13/19

The good news is that many Bristol Warren elementary students are performing well. “The students at Rockwell [Elementary School], in particular are performing well, evidenced by the number one …

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Good news, bad news for Bristol Warren in state assessments

School officials present analysis of student testing to school committee

Posted

The good news is that many Bristol Warren elementary students are performing well. “The students at Rockwell [Elementary School], in particular are performing well, evidenced by the number one state ranking,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jonathan Brice to the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee Tuesday night. “We actually believe that we have students at all of our schools performing at high levels.”

On average, however, the differences between the elementary schools are actually pretty stark. In English Language Arts, for example, 31 percent of Rockwell students are exceeding expectations. At Hugh Cole, Colt Andrews and Guiteras elementary schools, those percentages are 5, 6, and 9, respectively.

Growth rates present a sunnier picture across all schools, with 26 percent of Colt Andrews students showing high growth in test scores (the lowest growth rate), to 58 percent of Rockwell students demonstrating high growth.

Another bright spot in the report was the English Language Arts growth in the PSAT/SAT performance of Mt. Hope sophomores and juniors. They showed an average growth percentile of 61 percent, second highest in the state.

The bad news is, there is a demonstrable performance slide in middle school. At Kickemuit Middle School, 10 percent of students exceeded expectations in English Language Arts, higher than some of the elementary schools, but representing a drop overall when Rockwell is factored in.

“We need to unpack this,” Dr. Brice said. “Is there a teaching or learning issue, are the requirements changing? Are we as detailed in terms of support and structure?”

School committee member Victor Cabral wondered how much of that statistical slide could be due to attrition of students to other schools after elementary school — particularly if that attrition is exceptionally high coming from high-achieving Rockwell. Dr. Brice said he would collect that data and send it out in an update to the committee at the end of the week.

Vice chairman Adam Ramos asked if the middle school slide was something experienced across all districts. Dr. Brice agreed that is the national trend. “We tend to see a shift after grade 5,” he said. “It is something that requires significant examination.”

A graph comparing Bristol Warren scores from Grades 3 to 5, alongside scores from other districts, including Portsmouth, Barrington, Middletown and North Kingstown indicates that, while many other schools do experience a middle school slide, Barrington does not. Barrington Middle School students shoot up to 80 percent achievement in the sixth grade, and they hold steady there through middle school.

One concern Dr. Brice has taken away from talking to students in advisory is whether or not the classroom structure is conducive to learning. He recounted hearing from students that there are periods of time where they are sitting in class for well over an hour, and never move.

“The idea of whether or not they can be engaged at a high level, for that length of time, is something that we need to at least think about,” he said.

“Here’s what I would say about our state assessments,” said Dr. Brice. “Our state assessments are a moment in time. I think what you are going to see are some things that really signal that we are headed in the right direction, but they also suggest that there are a few areas within, that point to work that needs to be done.

“We are going to celebrate and recognize the triumphs we have, but we also recognize that we have some work to do. It’s a signal for all of us that we have to repurpose our efforts to focus on what’s happening in middle grades, that we are not holding the same level of performance of our students.”

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