Recently released New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) Science Assessment results show an overall decline in proficiency statewide, and in Warwick, from last year.
All students in grades 4, 8 and 11 took the science assessment last May, and only 33.8 percent of them earned a “proficient” score or “proficient with distinction,” the two highest scores.
Scores on science NECAPs have no bearing on high school graduation; only math, reading and writing assessments are included in that requirement.
According to a press release from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), these results show a decline of one percentage point from 2012’s results, but an increase of 10 percentage points since the science NECAP testing began in 2008.
“Though the science results this year do not show the same dramatic improvements that we celebrated a year ago, I am pleased that the long-term trend is positive and that our middle school students continue to improve in science achievement,” said Governor Lincoln Chafee in the release.
While the overall performance statewide did decline, the performance of Rhode Island’s eighth graders improved. This year, 29.8 percent of Rhode Island’s eighth graders achieved proficiency or higher, up three points from 2012 and 11 points from 2008.
The same cannot be said for the state’s 4th and 11th graders, as 40.9 percent of fourth graders achieved proficiency or higher, down five points from 2012, and 30.1 percent of 11th graders were proficient or higher, down two points from 2012.
Both grades, however, have seen improvement since 2008, up five points in grade 4 and 14 in grade 11.
The assessment, which consists of multiple-choice, constructed-response, and inquiry task items on Earth, space, physical and life sciences, may not have showed improvement in proficiency, but there was some improvement seen in achievement gaps. According to the release, although achievement gaps in science are still wide in all grades, “the achievement gaps narrowed this year, particularly in grade 4.” The release continues to say that the gaps for African-American students, Hispanic students, students with disabilities, English learners and economically disadvantaged students in grade 4 decreased by “several percentage points.” Some gaps decreased in grade 11, but they remained unchanged or widened in grade 8.
Warwick schools saw an overall decline in proficiency on this science assessment as well. Of the 2,090 students tested in the district in the three grades, only 27.4 percent (about 573 students) earned a 3 or 4 on the test.
In 2012, 30.4 percent of the 2,238 students earned proficiency or higher, about 680 students. That is a percentage decline of 3.
On RIDE’s website (www.ride.ri.gov/NECAP-results), a breakdown of community scores by town and by school is available in the report, “Spring 2013 RI NECAP Science Results Public Report.”
According to that report, only six of Warwick’s 22 schools saw an increase in proficiency from 2012 to 2013; Hoxsie Elementary School went from 32.7 percent to 36.4 percent; Holliman Elementary School from 45.6 percent to 47.6 percent; Norwood Elementary School from 41.2 percent to 48.5 percent; and Park Elementary from 42.1 percent to 52.2 percent. At the secondary level, the increases were minimal, with Aldrich Junior High going from 21.3 percent to 21.4 percent and Toll Gate High School from 24.5 percent to 25.3 percent.
The other schools showed a decrease in proficiency; Cedar Hill Elementary went from 69.8 percent in 2012 to 55.6 percent in 2013; Robertson Elementary from 56.3 percent to 46.3 percent; John Brown Francis Elementary from 48.9 percent to 40 percent; Greenwood Elementary from 46.9 percent to 44 percent; Scott Elementary School from 61.5 percent to 59.5; John Wickes Elementary from 36.4 percent to 21.3 percent; Lippitt Elementary School from 45.8 percent to 40 percent; Oakland Beach Elementary from 42 percent to 20.4; Randall Holden Elementary from 55.4 percent to 40.7 percent; Sherman Elementary School from 32.8 percent to 30.2 percent; and Wyman Elementary School from 38 percent to 23.9 percent.
At the secondary level, the story is the same with Winman Junior High falling from 28 percent of students achieving proficiency or higher to 24.2 percent; Gorton Junior High from 21 percent to 18.2 percent; Warwick Veterans Memorial High School from 18.7 percent to 18.5 percent; and Pilgrim High School from 23.4 percent to 18.1 percent.
Warwick Neck Elementary School actually maintained their 50 percent proficiency or higher rate.
Although proficiency on science NECAPs plays no role in graduation requirements, the powers that be are still dedicated to improving science education and improving these scores.
“We need to see continued improvement in science results over the coming years if our students are to succeed in the challenging careers of the 21st century,” said Chafee.
In RIDE’s press release, Board of Education Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso seemed confident scores would improve down the road with a new curriculum.
“One of the first actions this year of the new Board of Education was the approval of the Next Generation Science Standards, which will guide science instruction in Rhode Island over the coming years,” said Mancuso in her statement. “With its focus on hands-on learning and scientific inquiry, these standards will help Rhode Island students continue making progress toward proficiency in science.”
Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was equally confident in her statement. “As we work together to improve student achievement in science, it is essential that we provide great instruction, resources and support to all Rhode Island students,” said Gist. “We will continue our work helping districts develop strong science curricula and providing more opportunities for students in all districts to take AP classes and other challenging courses in science. I am confident that our results can continue to improve, for all students and in all grade levels.”
The announcement of these scores comes only a week before NECAP testing in math, writing and reading is scheduled to begin for students in grades 3 through 8 and 11. Testing begins on Tuesday and runs until Oct. 23.