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Participation rises in R.I. on PSAT, SAT, AP tests; NECAP science results slip

Rhode Island students took College Board tests in record numbers last year, with 6,303 members of the Class of 2016 taking SAT tests (up 1 percentage point from the Class of 2015) and 5,040 seniors taking AP tests (up 7.8 points), according to a report the College Board released today (September 27). 

There was SAT participation in all high schools with a graduating class.

Students in the Class of 2016 in Rhode Island public high schools took 8,657 AP tests, with 4,754 attaining a score of 3 or better (up 7.7 points), which is sufficient to earn students college credits at many postsecondary institutions. AP tests are scored on a range of 1 to 5 points. 

“It’s important that we continue to hold high expectations for all students and provide all students with opportunities for challenging coursework such as AP courses,” said Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “Students who participate in college-readiness assessments such as the SAT and AP tests are more likely to see a college education as a part of their future. That’s good for students and good for Rhode Island, as we need more college graduates who will be ready to enter the challenging careers of the 21st-century economy.” 

SAT results 

SAT scores for seniors in public high schools in Rhode Island declined slightly: 478 in critical reading (down 2 points), 478 in mathematics (down 3 points), and 465 in writing (down 3 points). Nationally, scores declined as well: down 2 points in reading, 4 points in mathematics, and 3 points in writing. (SAT tests are scored on a range of 200 to 800 points.) 

Rhode Island SAT scores were below the national average on all three tests: 9 points below the national average in reading, 16 points in mathematics, and 7 points in writing.
Barrington High School had the highest scores in the state on all 3 tests: 586 (reading) , 596 (mathematics), and 572 (writing).

AP results 

The College Board report shows that participation in AP tests increased for several student groups: participation among Black students increased by 13 percent (to 287 students) and participation by Hispanic students increased by 33 percent  (to 914 students). 

Classical High School (Providence) had the highest number of AP tests taken (1,155) and the highest number of tests scored 3 or better (590). 

Last week Rhode Island received a $60,442 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to pay a portion of the $90 cost of AP tests taken by low-income students – an estimated 2,124 tests. (The College Board report does not include data on low-income students.) 

PSAT results 

Last year’s 10th and 11th graders increased participation in the PSAT tests, with 4,549 10th graders participating (up 23.4 points) and 5,308 11th graders (up 1.4 points) at some time during their high-school years. 

Thanks to a program that Governor Gina M. Raimondo initiated, this year’s 10th graders will be able to take the PSAT at no cost to them and during the school day, with testing scheduled for October 19. At present, school districts have ordered test forms for nearly 90 percent of the 10th-grade class, which would almost double the participation rate.

Similarly, this year’s 11th graders will be able to take the SAT at no cost to them and during the school day, at a date in the spring still to be determined. This initiative could increase SAT participation by up to 40 percent. 

NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) Science results 

Results from the NECAP Science assessments administered in May to all students in grades 4, 8, and 11 show that fewer than 3 of 10 Rhode Island students (29 percent, down 3 percentage points from 2015) attained proficiency in science. 

The results by grade level are:

41 percent of grade-3 students attained proficiency in science, up 1 point from 2015
19 percent of grade-8 students attained proficiency, down 4 points
26 percent of grade-11 students attained proficiency, down 6 points. 

The results this year continue a 4-year downward trend in the percentage students attaining proficiency in science. Not a single school district and no student groups made statistically significant improvements in science in 2016.  

Some elementary schools had achievement levels of 80 percent proficient or higher: Hope Valley and Richmond (Chariho), Kingston Hill Academy, Fishing Cove (North Kingstown), Raymond LaPerche (Smithfield), and The Compass School. 

“We are disappointed in these science results, especially as we begin to focus on the important role science will play in growing areas of the Rhode Island economy such as health-care industries and information technology,” said Commissioner Wagner. “In light of these results, we plan to meet with district and school leadership and the science educators’ leadership team to discuss the current state of science instruction, our shared vision for science instruction in Rhode Island, and the tools and resources our educators need to make this vision a reality.

“We are also moving forward with the process of adopting a new science assessment,” Commissioner Wagner added. “The NECAP science assessment is not aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, which Rhode Island schools began implementing three years ago. We believe a new assessment aligned with our current standards will give a more accurate picture of student achievement in science.”

In May 2013, Rhode Island adopted the Next Generation State Standards (NGSS) to replace the NECAP Science Grade Span Expectations. At this time schools and districts are transitioning to instruction aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, and they are at various stages of implementation. The R.I. Department of Education is in the process of exploring opportunities to develop, with other states, a science assessment aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards along with a plan to conduct a field test (in the spring of 2018) of a new science assessment.