Dated: Saturday, 02/10/2007
"Educating Our Youth is the Most Important Business of Providence"
In this third column I have some very positive news to report to the community, and I hope by the time this reaches the newsstands, you will all know that Im talking about the most recent state test scores released for Grade 3 through Grade 8 in Providence Public Schools. I am pleased to say there was considerable growth in Reading and Mathematics scores, and I am very proud of the improved performance of our students taking these tests, as well as the work of the entire District.
On Tuesday, January 30th, the Governor and the Rhode Island Department of Education re-leased the test scores for the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). This is the second year this specific test has been administered to students in Providence, a test developed in partnership with New Hampshire and Vermont. Last October, students in Grades 3 through 8 in Providence were tested. The writing test was given only in grades 3 and 8.
At the time of this writing, our department of assessment was working to interpret more fully the impact of these scores on the District. However, some immediate conclusions can be drawn. First, as has been reported by mainstream press outlets, the urban districts, including Providence, showed some of the most dramatic gains in scores compared to last years results. In fact, Providences improvement in scores far outpaced the improvement in scores the State reported for all districts. And although Providences writing test scores declined, this performance mirrored what happened across the State in general. Here are several additional highlights of Providences test scores:
- All grades showed improvement in the Providence School District, some by remarkable measures. For example, Grade 6 Mathematics grew at a rate of 50% to the States rate of only 10%.
- The percent of students scoring "at proficient or above proficient" in Reading increased 7 points from 30 to 37 percent at a growth rate of 23%, districtwide.
- Reading First elementary schools, in general, displayed the greatest growth rate in Reading and Math among those elementary schools that showed improvement.
- The percent of students scoring at or above proficient in Mathematics increased 7 points from 24 to 31 percent at a growth rate of 29%, districtwide. o The Districts performance in Writing declined 17% districtwide, in step with the States writing performance.
To what do I attribute these gains? There are many factors that impact our students achievement: our teachers performance, our principals leadership, our students effort, and our parents and families involvement. We are always working to increase awareness and outreach to parents and families about the importance of these tests to our children. Other factors that affected these test scores are changes this District has implemented over the past several years. We have standardized the curriculum across all grades in the District, and aligned this curriculum to meet the expectations of the State.
In a previous column, I presented the outline of the "Providence Effective Schools Initiative (PESI) ," the central educational strategy in "Realizing the Dream," our comprehensive plan to increase student achievement in the Providence School District. PESI, which includes the ten dimensions of school effectiveness is designed to fundamentally change the culture and climate in schools and in the Districts central offices.
I believe we are now beginning to see the changing culture in our schools. Our principals are making our schools more welcoming and our school staff is more customer-service oriented. We are continuing a relentless focus on student achievement, and our central office staff provides guidance and support to school leaders. In fact, there are many more factors responsible for these gains, and although I dont have room to discuss them all here, I will be sharing these additional factors in upcoming columns.
As I said previously, I am very proud of the progress that our students have made when compared to the test scores of last year. However, I must say that our challenges have not been met. Overall, our test scores are still far lower than the levels that I know our students are capable of achieving. For this reason, our students must continue the hard work they have displayed over the course of this last year. We in the central office must continue to train and support our teachers and principals. Parents must remain involved in the work of their children and in the activities of their childs school. As a community, we must show our students that we value them and we support them in their quest to succeed and graduate, and move on to pursue higher achievements such as college and meaningful work after high school.
This challenge remains our collective responsibility and I know you will join me in reaching out to students to tell them how proud we all are of their achievements on these tests. We must also remind our high school students of the importance of the tests they will be taking in March. I will expect similar progress from their scores. Also, join me in thanking principals for their leadership and teachers for their expertise and dedication in pre-paring our students and motivating them to do their very best.
I believe these test scores are a small indication that all Providence students have the potential to achieve at high levels. We must continue to expect this of them, continue to support them, and continue to hold ourselves accountable for providing the necessary environment for them to be high achievers.
On a similar note, in my last column I mentioned the education planning firm, DeJong Inc, was recruited by Mayor Cicilline to take what we know about the condition of our existing school buildings; to look at our current and future student population and enrollments; to evaluate our plans for improving student achievement in the District; to meet with the community to learn what it needs and wants from its school system; and to make recommendations in four community forums based on best practices and proven school models that have been successful in other districts. I have mentioned before that a plan for improving our school facilities plays an integral role in Realizing the Dream. You play an important part in this plan, so please make every effort to attend one of these forums and offer your feedback to help us move toward building consensus and a final course of action. The remaining forums are scheduled on the dates below.
Tuesday, February 13th, 6:00PM
8:00PM Bridgham Middle School
Cafetorium 1655 Westminster Street, Providence
Thursday, February 15th,
Hope High School - Cafeteria
324 Hope Street, Providence