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Rhode Island Launches New School Report Card Platform

Report Cards Make School Accountability More Accessible and Transparent Than Ever Before

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today launched its new School Report Card platform and, with it, released 2018 results for school accountability. Both the online platform and the accountability data displayed within the platform were updated under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law. This is the first year under the new system.

The most visible change is that Rhode Island now assigns a Star Rating to every public school. Ranging from 1 to 5 stars, the Star Rating simplifies and summarizes overall school performance, providing an easy-to-understand snapshot for families and communities.

“We have a collective responsibility, from my office to local governments, superintendents to classroom teachers, to serve all students and hold ourselves accountable for outcomes. That shared responsibility is central to our ability to stay the course on a long-term strategy for improvement. Rhode Island’s new accountability system gives a more complete picture of how our schools are performing, providing valuable information about where we are making gains, and where we need to improve,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We also have a collective responsibility to make sure that families and communities can access and understand these performance data, empowering them to share their perspectives and have a seat at the policymaking table.”

Unlike past accountability systems, which used an aggregated score, the Star Rating is determined using a broader range of performance measures. Schools must perform well across all measures to earn a high star rating. In other words, high performance in a single category cannot mask low performance in another.

The primary drivers of the accountability system, and of Star Ratings, are student achievement and student growth, measured through performance on state assessments. These measures are rounded out by a more expansive view of school climate, culture, and achievement, including such measures as student and teacher chronic absence, suspension rates, and student pathways. The full breakdown of accountability measures is listed below.

Student sub-group performance is also a central component of the system. In order to earn 5 stars, a school must have no low-performing sub-groups in achievement, growth, or graduation rate. If a school has two or more sub-groups classified as low performing, even if they perform very well in other measures, they cannot earn more than 3 stars.

“The release of our RICAS results underscored that we have work to do. Our students are not performing where we need them to be, particularly our students of color, English Learners, and students with disabilities,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education. “In order to make considerable gains, we need to stay the course on a comprehensive, long-term strategy. Our education strategy is anchored in the things that we know make a difference in classrooms, and our accountability system is anchored in those same principles.”

Statewide, 21 schools are designated at 5 stars, 40 at 4 stars, 132 at 3 stars, 68 at 2 stars, and 36 at 1 star.

In total, 24 schools are identified as being in need of Comprehensive Support and Improvement, a federal designation for low-performing schools. Also known as, “Comprehensive Schools,” these schools receive additional support and oversight from the state, including access to School Improvement Grant funds and to a curated hub of resources, tools, and evidence-based strategies for improvement. If they do not improve significantly, Comprehensive Schools must initiate a strategy for School Redesign, a plan that rethinks their school’s approach to teaching and learning to ensure that all students are making strong progress. Plans will be developed in conjunction with a Community Advisory Board that they convene, made up of parents, community leaders, and other diverse stakeholder perspectives.

In addition, 131 schools across Rhode Island were identified as in need of “Additional Targeted Support and Improvement,” where one or more student sub-groups performed at the lowest levels in the state. Of these schools in need of targeted improvement, 89 percent were identified because of the need for dramatic improvement for their students with a disability.

“We all have a role to play in improving education, and our new approach to accountability recognizes that truth and brings the community into the process so that our schools can better reflect and serve the needs of our students,” said Daniel P. McConaghy, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Looking beyond Star Ratings, the accountability system allows Rhode Island to shed light on best practices in specific areas. Visitors to the Report Card platform can view school data for every measure and identify their school’s strengths and weaknesses.

For example, Chariho elementary schools saw significant growth in mathematics. Ashaway, Hope Valley, Richmond, and Charlestown Elementary Schools all made the top 10 for average growth in math scores. In English Language Proficiency, Agnes Little School in Pawtucket, a 3 star school overall, earned the maximum number of points for improvements made by their English Learners. Schools in eight different communities had fewer than 3 percent of their students chronically absent, and 70 schools had no teachers who were chronically absent. RIDE will look at these examples to learn what strategies are in place in those areas, and what other schools can learn from those efforts.

Bellwether Education Partners, a national education non-profit, praised Rhode Island’s accountability and school improvement approaches in an independent evaluation of the state’s ESSA Plan. Bellwether called the Star Ratings a “parent-friendly” system with “robust indicators,” and said that our “plan for supporting schools is also exemplary and offers many approaches other states could learn from.”

Measures currently included in school accountability:

  • Achievement: Student performance in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics on either the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) for grades 3-8, or the SAT for grades 10 and 11.
  • Growth: Measures student improvement, year-over-year, on state assessments. Including a growth measure allows the state to recognize schools whose investments and approaches are moving the needle.
  • English Language Proficiency: Measures year-over-year improvement among English Learners, an important and growing population of students.
  • Student Absenteeism: The percentage of students who miss 10 percent or more of the school year, which is the benchmark for chronic absence.
  • Teacher Absenteeism: The percentage of teachers who miss 10 percent or more of the school year, with the exclusion of professional development or pre-approved absences of greater than five days.
  • Suspension Rate: Much like chronic absence, the suspension rate is a proxy measure for school climate and culture. Suspension should be a last resort, and if a school has a high rate of suspension, it tells us something about the school culture.
  • Exceeding Expectations: Measures the percentage of students earning top scores on state assessments.
  • Graduation Rate: Measures the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates to emphasize that no student should fall through the cracks and to credit schools for getting all students to graduation.

In future years, Rhode Island will include additional measures, including performance on a state science assessment, the percentage of high school graduates meeting proficiency on state assessments in ELA and math, and a measure called “Diploma Plus,” which gives high schools credit for the number of students earning college credits or industry credentials – accomplishments that have value in college and the workforce, beyond the traditional high school diploma.

“There isn’t a single solution to improving education, and therefore we can’t look at a single measure to gauge progress and success,” added Wagner. “We must take a comprehensive approach that invests in things like early childhood education, quality curriculum, career pathways for students, and professional learning for teachers, and we must track and report the data accordingly.”

The Report Card platform includes accountability data and other important sources of information, including data on school-level spending and SurveyWorks, the state’s school culture and climate survey. To explore the platform and view detailed accountability data, visit the RIDE website.