In Portsmouth: Pandemic cited for disappointing RICAS test scores

Portsmouth, other schools see drop in student performance

By Jim McGaw
Posted 11/8/21

Before you even get to the test scores, the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) highlighted a telling disclaimer: “When reviewing these results, keep in mind that student performance may have been influenced by disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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In Portsmouth: Pandemic cited for disappointing RICAS test scores

Portsmouth, other schools see drop in student performance

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Before you even get to the test scores, the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) highlighted a telling disclaimer: 

“When reviewing these results, keep in mind that student performance may have been influenced by disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Indeed, the 2021 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) test results that came out last week bore that out, with scores down nearly across the bsoard both in Portsmouth and statewide. 

The RICAS exam is administered to students from grades 3 through 8. It was not administered in 2020 when the federal government waived standardized testing requirements due to COVID-19, making these results the first Rhode Island statewide assessment revealing the effects of the pandemic on student learning. The results can be viewed online at ride.ri.gov/RIADP.

Scores across the state were lower than in years past, with greater drops in scores in mathematics this year than there were in English language arts (ELA). Overall, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in ELA dropped 5 percentage points, from 38.38 percent in 2019 to 33.19 percent in 2021, while the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in mathematics dropped 10 percentage points, from 29.79 percent in 2019 to 20.07 percent in 2021. 

These drops were seen in Rhode Island and nationwide in all student groups regardless of grade level, demographic, race, ethnicity, or multilingualism.

RICAS, which were administered between March and May, reflected decreases of student scores as were seen across the nation and in in neighboring states like Massachusetts, where students meeting ELA expectations dropped by 6 percentage points and those meeting mathematics expectations dropped by 16 percentage points. This accounted for a steeper decline than Rhode Island.

Local results

While Portsmouth students as a whole still outperformed the state average as they do every year, the 2020-21 RICAS test results were still down from local scores posted in 2018-19.

In the most recent results, 52.9 percent of all local students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, and 43.4 percent met or exceeded expectations in math, compared to 33.2 percent statewide in ELA and 20.1 percent statewide in math.

In 2018-19, however, 55.8 percent of Portsmouth students met or exceeded expectations in ELA on the RICAS, and 45.1 percent met or exceeded expectations in math.

In 2017-18, 50.2 percent of local students met or exceeded expectations in ELA , and 47.3 percent met or exceeded expectations in math.

RIDE also broke the numbers down by school:

• Melville (grades 3 and 4): 63.3 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, and 40.3 percent in math.

• Hathaway (grades 3 and 4): 51.7 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, and 24.3 percent in math.

• Middle school (grades 5 to 8): 51.3 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, and 33.2 percent in math.

Full report on Nov. 16

Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy said that given the pandemic, he wasn’t surprised by the lower test scores. While it was a good idea for the state to conduct the assessment in the spring, he said, district officials anticipated that both the participation rate and performance would be lower.

“They are what they are,” said Kenworthy, who will give a full report on the test scores to the School Committee at its next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

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