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Rhode Island Students Take SAT in Record Numbers

PARCC Results Remain Steady Over 2016 Levels

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – As Governor Raimondo, the General Assembly, and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) continue to remove barriers to college access, a record number of Rhode Island high school students took the SAT this year. Statewide, 79 percent of high school juniors completed the SAT during the free, in-school administration that was included as part of the approved state budget. This is a 20-percentage-point participation rate increase from the prior school year.

Starting in the coming school year, the PSAT and SAT will meet state and federal accountability requirements for Rhode Island high school students, eliminating a financial barrier for college applications and ensuring all students have the opportunity to get early feedback on college readiness.

“Thanks to the support of Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly, we increased free access to the PSAT and SAT, and continue to grow our challenging coursework offerings through the PrepareRI early college program and the Advanced Coursework Network,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Taken together, these opportunities open the door for more students to consider new possibilities and imagine college as part of their futures.”

The 79 percent participation rate applies to in-school SAT administration for juniors, and does not include seniors or those students who took the exam at other times of the year. The full assessment results for the Class of 2017 will be available through the College Board in the fall.

Of those students who took the in-school assessments, 56 percent of 10th graders met the college and career ready benchmark for Evidence Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) on the PSAT, and 34 percent met the benchmark for mathematics. On the SAT, 56 percent of 11th graders met the college and career ready benchmark for EBRW, and 34 percent met the benchmark for mathematics.

In addition to the transition to PSAT and SAT at the high school level, Rhode Island will shift in the coming school year to the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) for grades 3 through 8, making 2016-2017 the final year for administration of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.

On the 2017 PARCC, scores remained relatively constant when compared to the 2016 results, emphasizing the need for more rigorous, engaging, and relevant learning opportunities in order to improve achievement and prepare all students for the future. Participation rates remained high, with 98 percent participation in 2017 compared to 96 percent participation in 2016. Of those students, more than 97 percent took the PARCC assessment online.

“If you ask business owners whether they intend to plant roots or grow in Rhode Island, one of the most common concerns raised is the perceived quality of our schools,” said Wagner. “If we want to make significant strides in achievement, we can’t just do more of the same, better. We must be bold and innovative, and it is a challenge for all of us – in education, in industry, in public policy, and in our communities. We must unite around a common goal of engaging students with challenging coursework that will lead to improved performance and a reputation as a state with the talented, skilled workforce that a 21st century economy demands.”

Statewide, 40 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded expectations in English Language Arts (ELA)/Literacy, representing no change compared to the prior year. In mathematics, statewide achievement remained unchanged from the prior year, as well, with 33 percent of students across grades 3 through 8 meeting or exceeding expectations. In grade 9, 34 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, an increase of one percentage point. Also in grade 9, 27 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in Algebra I, a decrease of one percentage point.

In both ELA and math, the three-year trend shows a positive increase across all grades.

“We’re making progress, but not quickly enough. We need to close opportunity gaps and foster a system of education that works for all students,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education. “We should use this assessment transition year as a time to reinforce rigor and refocus on the fundamentals of great teaching and learning, so that we see consistent progress in our measures of student achievement.”

In particular, the achievement gap widened for English learners in nearly every grade level and in both content areas. Only 5.2 percent of EL students met or exceeded expectations in ELA in 2017, compared to 41.5 percent of non-English learners, and only 6.7 percent met or exceeded expectations in mathematics in 2017, compared to 33.8 percent of non-English learners.

“The assessment results underscore the need for targeted interventions, especially for our growing population of English learners,” said Wagner. “This is exactly why we requested and Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly provided additional funding for EL services, making it a permanent piece of the funding formula going forward. With that commitment, we will continue to explore ways to expand dual language programs, prepare more EL-certified educators, and support English learners and all students to achieve at the highest levels.”

To view complete 2017 assessment results, visit the RIDE website.