Community leaders commit to better teaching of reading after low RICAS scores


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Most of Rhode Island’s educators have no illusions: The bulk of the state’s public school students aren’t meeting the standards set for them.

It was proven in the first year results of the RICAS exam, which were released Nov. 29. Only 34% of students in grades 3 through 8 scored proficient or better on the reading portion.

The United Way of Rhode Island and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT met Monday morning to emphasize the importance of teaching reading.

“We need to be outraged, but at the same time, motivated,” said Cortney Nicolato, United Way RI’s president and CEO.

At the third-grade reading campaign announcement Monday morning, she said partners need to find a way to work together.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the 2018 RICAS results »

Students’ futures are on the line, said KIDS COUNT’s executive director, Elizabeth Burke Bryant. “Up until third grade, children are learning to read; after third grade, it is expected that children know how to read proficiently.”

The campaign, “Rhode Island Reads,” will institute a goal set by Gov. Gina Raimondo. The goal is that 75% of third-graders should be able to read at grade level by 2025.

Partners in the campaign discussed how to make sure kids are ready for school, how to reduce chronic absences, promote summer learning and the expansion of early language and literacy resources.

Improving proficiency starts with improving instruction, said the state’s education commissioner, Ken Wagner.

“We don’t have a shortage of solutions; we have a crisis of collective will,” he said. “Because every time something gets difficult, painful, uncomfortable, we zig or we zag. So we have a choice right now, are we gonna zig, are we gonna zag?”

“The collaboration across community partners [and] education leaders… is going to really critical if we’re going to get there,” added Courtney Hawkins, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services.

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