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Rhode Island Has Third Year of Consecutive Growth in College-Access Opportunities

More Students Than Ever Taking Advanced Coursework


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) reported today that, for the third consecutive year, Rhode Island experienced a year-over-year increase in the number of students participating in college-access opportunities and achieving college-ready benchmarks. Participation increased across the board for the PSAT and SAT assessments, dual and concurrent enrollment, and Advanced Placement – learning opportunities that better prepare students for the future and make college more accessible.

“We know that by 2020, 70 percent of jobs in Rhode Island will require some form of advanced education or training, and we are stepping up our game to make sure that our students can qualify and compete for those jobs,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We’re making it possible for more students than ever to earn college credits while still in high school, to explore potential careers, to experience hands-on, work-based learning, and to consider new possibilities for their futures.”

In the 2016-2017 school year, Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly moved to pay for in-school administration of the PSAT and SAT for all students. The following year, 2017-2018, the Rhode Island Department of Education adopted the PSAT and SAT as the official high school assessments.

More than 9,700 students took the SAT in 2018, which represents an additional 1,400 students compared to the prior year. Statewide, since 2015, there has been a 55 percent increase in overall SAT participation, allowing more students to gain feedback on college readiness and meet an important college access milestone. The state has also seen significant growth in students of color taking the SAT, with a 73 percent year-over-year increase for Latinx students in 2018, and a 50 percent increase for black students.

SAT Assessment

  • More than 9,700 students total took the test
  • 1,400 more students took the SAT than did so the previous year
  • Since 2015, there has been a 55 percent increase in participation

In addition to participation increases, Rhode Island also increased year-over-year the number of students who achieved the college-ready benchmarks. On the PSAT in Evidence Based Reading and Writing (EBRW), there was a 22 percent increase in students meeting the benchmark; on PSAT in Math, an 18 percent increase; on SAT in EBRW, a 5 percent increase; and on SAT in Math, a 3 percent increase.

With more students participating in these assessments and achieving college-ready benchmarks, overall statewide performance on both the PSAT and SAT remained relatively stable. On the PSAT, 57 percent of 10th graders met the college and career ready benchmark for EBRW and 34 percent meeting the benchmark for mathematics, representing a single percentage point increase and single percentage point decrease over last year’s results, respectively. On the SAT, the percentage of 11th graders meeting the college and career ready benchmark for EBRW dipped from 56 to 50 percent, and the percentage for mathematics from 34 to 30 percent.

“As more students challenge themselves with rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning experiences, they will gain a better sense of their pathway through school and beyond,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “When you grow participation exponentially while maintaining rigor, it is common to see a slight drop in overall performance statewide, but our results are very encouraging, especially since more kids than ever are hitting the college-ready benchmark. We still have work to do, but if we continue to invest in college access and readiness programs, performance will improve and our students will be better positioned for the future.”

In addition to the PSAT and SAT, high school students have unprecedented opportunities to earn college credit, at no cost to their family, while still in high school. They are earning these credits through dual and concurrent enrollment early college programs, the Advanced Course Network (ACN) that RIDE launched in the 2016-2017 school year, and Advanced Placement courses, all of which fall under the Prepare Rhode Island (PrepareRI) umbrella. PrepareRI is a statewide initiative, aligned to industry, to prepare all Rhode Island youth with the skills they need for high-wage, high-growth careers.

“Over the past three years, Rhode Island has made tremendous progress in expanding opportunities available to our students. From Advanced Placement to dual enrollment, students are building upon their strengths and exploring their passions. They’re in the driver’s seat of their own education, and that’s exactly how it should be,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education.

In the 2017-2018 school, 4,472 students participated in dual and concurrent enrollment programs, with the opportunity to earn college credit from the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the University of Rhode Island. Those students completed more than 7,500 courses, earning more than 26,000 college credits at no cost to their families.

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

  • More than 4,400 students participated in dual and concurrent enrollment
  • More than 7,500 courses completed, earning 26,000 college credits at no cost to their families
  • Since 2015, there has been 162% growth in dual and concurrent enrollment

For Advanced Placement, more than 6,300 students took exams in 2018, and of the 11,064 AP tests administered overall, 52 percent earned a score of 3 or higher – the benchmark most often used to be eligible for college credits. This year’s national comparison data is not yet available from the College Board, but last year, Rhode Island was the only state in the nation with a top 5 increase in 1-, 3-, 5- and 10-year growth in the percentage of high school graduates earning a 3 or higher on an AP exam.

These coursework opportunities are being taken advantage of by an increasingly diverse group of students. Since 2015, participation in AP by black students has increased by 37 percent, and by 84 percent for Hispanic/Latino students. Performance has likewise improved for Hispanic/Latino students, with a 70 percent increase in the number of students earning a score of 3 or better.

Advanced Placement

  • More than 6,300 students took AP exams
  • 1,700 more AP exams were administered compared to the previous year
  • Since 2015, there has been a 38 percent increase in participation

“We’ve made a concerted effort to expand the range and relevance of coursework offerings, and across the state, Rhode Island high school students are seizing every one of those opportunities,” said Daniel P. McConaghy, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. “When we set the bar high and provide the necessary supports, our students can meet and exceed all expectations. I’m thrilled to see this progress in participation, and I look forward to continued growth in both participation and performance in the years to come.”

This is the first of three assessment releases planned for the fall. The 2017-2018 school year was the first year for administration of the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS), the test for students in grades 3 through 8, in partnership with the MCAS assessment in Massachusetts. Rhode Island announced in spring 2017, with support from education stakeholders, that it would maintain the same academic standards in our classrooms but transition to a new assessment partnership with Massachusetts, in order align curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices with the nation’s leading education state.

RICAS results will be publicly released later this fall, followed by the release of our updated School and District Report Cards under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law, by the end of the calendar year.

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