PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island high schools improved on the annual New England Common Assessment Program test, but students from urban districts continued to struggle and now find themselves at risk of not graduating in 2014, according to data released by the State Department of Education.
Overall, 79% of 11th graders showed proficiency in reading on the annual statewide standardized test, the best rate amount four states that take the NECAP. On the math portion of the test, 34% showed proficiency, a four-point increase from last year.
But 40% of high school students scored "substantially below proficient" on math and 8% did the same on the reading portion of the test, meaning they will have to retake the test next year and show improvements in order to receive a diploma.
In some schools, the numbers were substantially higher.
At Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, 82% of students scored "substantially below proficient" on the math and 38% did the same on the reading section of the test. In Pawtucket, 68% of Shea High School students earned the lowest score on math while 21% were "substantially below proficient" in reading.
"As we move forward in our work toward transforming education in Rhode Island, our students continue to make progress, particularly at the high-school level," Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said in a statement. "We hope and expect to see continued improvement for all student groups in the coming years as we implement the new Common Core State Standards and as our accountability system focuses ever-greater attention on closing achievement gaps."
The state has come under fire in recent weeks after advocacy groups and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras expressed concern about the NECAP's role in the state's new graduation requirements. In an interview with WPRI.com, Taveras said the test was never designed to be tied to a student's graduation.
But Gist maintains that too many students are graduating from high school unprepared for college or the workforce.
"With good instruction and with the will to succeed, our students can learn, improve, and earn a meaningful high-school diploma," Gist said. "I understand that our Diploma System demands a lot of our teachers, of our students, and of their families. I appreciate all that educators across Rhode Island are doing to prepare our students for success."
The NECAP is taken by students grades 3-8 and 11th grade.