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NEW: RI Schools Make Progress on No Child Left Behind Act but Achievement Gap Remains

Friday, May 06, 2011


Four of every five Rhode Island public schools met all of the 2010-11 targets set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), according to annual school performance classifications released today by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist.

These results mark a two-point increase over last year, when 79 percent of RI school met all of their annual targets.

Of the 235 schools that met their annual targets, 12 were honored as 2011 Regent's Commended Schools for exceptionally high performances or significant progress made in English and math over the past two years.

Breaking down the numbers

The classifications were based on the results of 2010-11 state assessments in mathematics, reading, and writing as well as 2009-10 attendance and graduation rates. Under NCLB, the state sets annual targets for proficiency or improvement at each school level (elementary, middle, high school). The targets rise in equal increments each year until they reach 100 percent efficiency in 2014. Schools must meet targets for their level on a school-wide basis as well as for each of eight student groups — Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, White, students in poverty, students with disabilities, and English-language learners — if the school has at least 45 students in that group across all tested grades.

"While I am pleased to see that more than 80% of our schools have met all of their annual targets, I am concerned that some schools continue to struggle with low achievement," said Chafee. "We need to continue to invest in public education, which is the key to ensuring the economic well-being and the future prosperity of Rhode Island."

The latest numbers also exposed discrepancies between grade levels achieving target scores. While 90% of elementary schools and 81% of middle schools met all of their annual targets, only 55% of high schools did so. A bright spot in the report indicated that all but two (87%) of Rhode Island's charter schools hit all of their 2011 targets.

Achievement gap "alive and well"

The new data also revealed that the modest gains made by the state as a whole do not reflect a disturbing trend of little or negative change for minority students. African American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students showed minimal improvements from 2010, with the percentage of African Americans meeting the target performance measure dropping 4%, according to a Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN) analysis of the data.

"Though once again the large majority of our schools are making progress, we must do more to improve student achievement, particularly in our high schools and in mathematics," said Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. "Today's reports show that our schools are performing well on average, but that in many schools significant achievement gaps separate the performance of students of color, students with disabilities, English-language learners , and students living in poverty from the performance of their peers. As we work to transform education in Rhode Island, one of our highest priorities must be closing these achievement gaps."

RI-CAN: "An alarming gap"

"The numbers released today demonstrate that Rhode Island's achievement gap is alive, well, and ever thriving," said RI-CAN Executive Director Maryellen Butke. "We must renew our commitment to stand together as Rhode Islanders and close our alarming gap."

Of 54 schools that missed one or more of their annual targets, 19 (7%) missed targets for the first time. Fifty-oneschools were "identified for improvement," either because they missed targets for the second year in a row or because they met all targets this year but not in two or more previous years. These schools face varying levels of sanctions ranging up to corrective restructuring. Ten schools previously identified for improvement have met all targets for two consecutive years and were removed from the list.

District discrepancies

According to Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) statistics, some districts as a whole outperformed others. Half of the schools in Providence, the state's largest district, failed to meet their 2011 targets (though this is an improvement from last year, in which 2/3 failed). Twelve school districts were classified under "intervention status" and will receive technical assistance and oversight from RIDE as they implement plans to turn around their lowest performing schools.

Despite pronounced achievement gaps, George D. Caruolo, Esq., Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementatry and Secondary Education remained confident that Rhode Island's schools will continue to improve along the standards set by NCLB.

"I commend our students and teachers for their success in meeting most of our annual targets for growth and achievement, especially the students and teachers in our 12 Regents' Commended Schools," he said. "We will continue moving forward with out strategic plan to ensure that all schools achieve their goals and that all students are well-prepared for success."


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