More than 60 percent of eleventh graders at scored “proficient” in standardized science tests last spring, marking a first for the state. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist heralded the acheivement at a press conference at Mt. Hope High School in Bristol on Tuesday.
"We surpassed the 60 percent barrier,” said Nicholas Rath, EGHS science department chair. "We’re definitely ahead of the game. It’s a bigger jump than what I anticipated.”
“Commissioner Gist recognized several schools and school districts across the state for various achievements in science NECAPs,” said Supt. Victor Mercurio, who along with Rath, Asst. Supt. Paula Dillon and EGHS Principal Michael Podraza attended the conference. The NECAP tests are the New England Common Assessment Program exams.
"Breaking the 60 percent proficiency barrier was quite an accomplishment,” Mercurio said.
The high school increased its proficiency rate by 22.5 percent over the past three years, with a 10.1 percent increase in the past year alone. That increase put East Greenwich at 3.9 percent higher science proficiency than Barrington, which had the second-highest proficiency.
Mercurio said the higher scores might be linked to how the hands-on science kits used by the district are administered.
“We tweaked the sequencing and timing of when we implement the kits into instruction to best serve the students,” said Mercurio.
Mercurio said another factor in the jump in scores could be related to the new science facilities at the high school, which he said were “top in the state.”
Mercurio noted that several factors affect student test scores, including the quality of the facility and educators who strive for excellence.
“East Greenwich has terrific leadership that produces phenomenal instruction for our students. We have an excellent science chair at the high school,” he said.
The fourth grade also showed a significant increase in their scores. Over three years, the scores went up 21.9 percent with a one-year growth of 3.3 percent. Conversely, scores were down by 2.4 percent for eighth graders, after two years of solid improvement.
As a whole across the state, eighth grade scores were down, with gains seen by eleventh grade.
In East Greenwich, the proficiency levels were 79.9 percent for fourth grade, 52.9 percent for eighth grade, and 60.9 percent for eleventh grade.
“We have to look at the data and see where the gaps are,” said Mercurio. They will also look at individual schools to determine specific needs.
“There is always room for improvement and areas to work on, and we are going to do that,” said Mercurio.
As for the high school, the Science Department continues to work on improving areas for higher student success. "One quarter of the test is earth and space science, and we’re still figuring out how to fit that into the curriculum," said Rath.
As an overall goal for East Greenwich, Supt. Mercurio said EGSD should shoot for 100 percent proficiency. The district needs to strive to make sure everyone can be proficient, he said.
“Expectations should be high but reasonable,” said Mercurio.
In comparing Rhode Island with New Hampshire, Rhode Island still falls slightly behind. The students across the state have made major strides to make the scores more competitive, with eleventh grade scores only trailing by one percentage point to New Hampshire.
Mercurio said East Greenwich should investigate how New Hampshire implements instruction in schools, how they are organized, and if their content areas are taught by specialists.
The NECAP tests for language arts and math will begin next week for third through eleventh grades.
(With reports by Elizabeth McNamara.)