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Rhode Island Department of Education Releases 2021 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) Test Results

SAT and Dynamic Learning Maps results also released

PROVIDENCE, RI -- The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today released the final results of the 2021 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) standardized tests, SAT, and Dynamic Learning Maps. The RICAS exam is administered to students from Grades 3 through 8. It was not administered in 2020 when the federal government waived standardized testing requirements due to COVID-19, making these results the first Rhode Island statewide assessment revealing the effects of the pandemic on student learning. The results can be viewed online at www.ride.ri.gov/ADP.

"What we are looking at here is a new baseline for our students, and by working together, we are going to be able to raise it," said Governor Dan McKee. "We must take this opportunity to not only improve in the short term, but to look ahead to how we can build a stronger, more resilient education system over the coming decade. We are going to work with families and educators across the state to make sure every child gets the excellent education they deserve."

"We are grateful to the educators and parents who have worked so hard, particularly over the course of the pandemic, to keep students engaged and learning," said Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. "As we move past the pandemic, we need all hands on deck to strengthen our education systems and to urgently improve measurable results. The Senate stands ready to support students and teachers in every way we can until Rhode Island’s education system is the strongest it can be."

"These results make clear the impact that the pandemic has had on our students, and it’s up to us to ensure that we reverse that trend," said House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi. "This is a moment for all Rhode Islanders to come together and work for a better future. We needed to gauge how our students were impacted to know how to best support them, and now our focus must be executing new strategies as a statewide community."

"The results of the 2021 RICAS are a clear call to action: our students’ learning was disrupted by COVID-19, and we must meet this moment by focusing our energy on the implementation of a strategic, unified plan to meet their needs," said Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green. "Like communities across the country, we knew that our students were impacted by the pandemic, and we are deeply grateful to the educators, school leaders, and parents who have worked to keep them engaged. RIDE, along with our Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways Task Force, has spent the last year planning ways to address the effects of this disruption to student learning and we are looking forward to building new and better community-led systems of education."

"The 2021 RICAS scores reveal that the pandemic disrupted learning and now more than ever it is even more critical that we work collectively to improve outcomes for students," said Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education Barbara Cottam. "Rhode Island needs to stay the course on education. These results provide us with data on the needs of our students and we need to implement a bold plan of action to move our state education system forward."

Scores across the state were lower than in years past, with greater drops in scores in Mathematics this year than there were in ELA. Overall, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in ELA dropped 5 percentage points, from 38.38% in 2019 to 33.19% in 2021, while the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in Mathematics dropped 10 percentage points, from 29.79% in 2019 to 20.07% in 2021. These drops were seen in Rhode Island and nationwide in all student groups regardless of grade level, demographic, race, ethnicity, or multilingualism.

RICAS, which were administered between March and May, reflected decreases of student scores as were seen across the nation and in in neighboring states like Massachusetts, where students meeting ELA expectations dropped by 6 percentage points and those meeting Mathematics expectations dropped by 16 percentage points. This accounted for a steeper decline than Rhode Island.

Further, student participation decreased by 10 percentage points in both Mathematics and ELA compared to 2019 levels. The most severe drops in participation occurred among students who were either economically disadvantaged or homeless.

The RICAS results underscore the importance of in-person learning with similar trends to those seen in other states. 26% of students who were mostly in-person were proficient on Mathematics compared to 13% of students who were mostly virtual. 39% of students who were mostly in-person were proficient on ELA compared to 26% of students who were mostly virtual.

The lower student scores on the RICAS assessment were in line with evidence examined by RIDE’s Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Task Force, a group of 40 Rhode Island education experts, community leaders, state legislators, and educators which was convened in February of 2021 to identify root causes of inequity in education and issue recommendations to remedy those causes and accelerate student learning in the wake of the pandemic. This new data will help both RIDE and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) focus the use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds where they are needed most.

RIDE has already taken action on several of the recommendations from the LEAP Task Force’s final report, including expanding out-of-school learning opportunities through an expanded All Course Network (ACN) course catalog, creating social-emotional learning resources for both students and educators and ensuring that LEAs prioritize the social-emotional needs of students and staff in their ESSER III plans, and launching a statewide back-to-school campaign focused on energizing school communities to fully return to in-person learning and reducing chronic absenteeism. RIDE also announced a pilot Facility Equity Initiative which provides $10 million to serve school districts with the highest state fund reimbursement rates. In the coming months, RIDE will be announcing several initiatives aligned with priority areas and strategies devised by the LEAP Task force to close the learning gap and improve student achievement with particular focus on school communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

In addition to the state’s RICAS results, RIDE also released results for two other standardized assessments: the SAT and Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM). Results for the statewide assessment that is administered to multilingual learners, the Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State (ACCESS), will be made available in the coming weeks.

Like RICAS, the SAT results are broken into Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations, and Not Meeting Expectations. The number of students participating dropped by 8% from 2019 to 2021, and scores were lower in 2021 than in 2019.

In ELA, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations dropped by 2.2 percentage points, from 50.5% in 2019 to 48.3% in 2021. In Mathematics, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations dropped by 2.2 percentage points, from 50.5% in 2019 to 48.3% in 2021.

DLM is an alternate assessment program for differently-abled students in Grades 3 through 8 and 11 for whom other standardized testing is not appropriate, even with accommodation. Performance on this assessment is scored in one of three categories: Emerging, Approaching Target, or At Target or Advanced. Rhode Island first began administering these assessments in 2017.

The percentage of students who participated in DLM 2021 dropped by 9.1% in ELA and 10.6% in Mathematics. The total population of students eligible to participate is less than 1,000. On these assessments, the percentage of students performing At Target or Advanced in ELA lowered from 11.1% in 2019 to 9.7% in 2021. The percent of students performing At Target or Advanced in Mathematics went up from 12% to 20.9%.