RICAS test scores down at Westerly, but there’s a plan to boost them | Where is

WESTERLY — Principals and other administrators have developed a plan to improve student performance on the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) test after results released in October showed declines in nearly every category at every school district reporting to it. was given.

School principals and superintendents Mark Garceau, at a school board meeting on Wednesday, attributed the poor performance to the effect of students being forced to learn remotely and other changes brought about by the pandemic. of COVID-19. In the spring, students reported for the test for the first time since 2019. The test was canceled by state officials in 2020 due to the pandemic. Students in grades 3 through 8 take the RICAS, which assesses proficiency in English and math. It was the third time the test had been administered in Rhode Island.

Only 36.9% of Westerly students have mastered the English language arts section of the test, down from 51.8% in 2019; and only 17.7% achieved math fluency, down from 38% in 2019. Every school in the district saw declines in all areas of the test except for Springbrook Elementary School, where students showed a slight improvement in ELA from 38.8% percent of students achieving mastery in 2019 to 39.2% achieving mastery. Westerly students performed better, on average, than students from other districts, and attendance was higher in Westerly than in many other districts.

During the 2020-2021 school year, students went to school four days a week and had distance learning one day a week until mid-May, but some families chose to have them learn to their students remotely throughout the school year. The previous school year was halted in mid-March when the pandemic forced remote learning for the rest of the year.

The pandemic has also led to personnel changes that could have had a negative effect on learning. Additionally, some aspects of the district’s elementary school curriculum were not taught, according to a presentation developed by the city’s elementary school principals and delivered to the school board Wednesday.

The pandemic has also harmed the social and emotional well-being of students. For some students, the only time they entered a school building in 2020-21 was to take the test.

“You could see the stress on some of their faces,” said Springbrook Elementary School principal Susan Martin.

Based on test results, essay writing was identified as a weakness for third and fourth graders, as was multi-step math problem solving. Elementary schools emphasized writing, phonemic awareness, text-level reading, and math problem solving. Professional development in the science of reading for teachers, which is required of all teachers in the state, should also help improve student performance, principals said. Schools are also looking to intervene early when students show signs of falling behind or need subject-specific assistance.

At Westerly Middle School, teachers are back to fully implementing a new ELA curriculum and focusing on student writing in response to reading. The school is also increasing its emphasis on reading and test preparation.

The college is also implementing a new math curriculum for fifth-grade students, and math teachers are engaging in curriculum-driven professional development. Students in grades 5-8 focus on problem-solving skills.

School board member Giuseppe Gencarelli, who works as an elementary school principal in another district, questioned why state education officials insisted on administering the test and said the results should be taken as a new baseline.

School board member Robert Cillino, who also works as a principal in another district, said it could take students up to three years to recover academically from setbacks caused by the pandemic. Audrey Faubert, principal of State Street Elementary School, agreed that it will take time.

“Thank you for acknowledging that this is not an easy solution,” Faubert said. “It takes time to recoup some of that loss.”

The return to in-person learning has allowed teachers to return to the kind of small-group sessions that benefit students, Faubert added.

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