PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The vast majority of Rhode Island school districts got the lowest possible score for improving English proficiency among students who are learning the language, according to new district-by-district ratings released by the R.I. Department of Education.
The new information on English language proficiency was released as part of a wider school district rating system unveiled for the first time on Friday. The ratings, which are separate from the federally-mandated star rankings, were required to be compiled by a 2019 state law.
This was the first time the new accountability results have been compiled. Rather than giving each district or public charter an overall score or ranking, RIDE scored each one in six individual categories including achievement, growth, English language proficiency, graduation rates, diploma plus measures, and school quality and student success.
The English language proficiency category is where the most districts failed. A stunning 31 out of 47 of Rhode Island’s “local education agencies” — either school districts or public charters — scored a 1 out of 4 points, which was the lowest possible score.
The rating is a measure of how multilingual learners, also known as English learners, are progressing in learning English.
Only three agencies scored “strong performance” in that category: Barrington, RISE Prep Mayoral Academy in Woonsocket and SouthSide Charter School in Providence.
Ten education agencies scored in the mid-range for English proficiency. (Some districts do not have multilingual learners and therefore were not scored in this category.)
Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said when looking at the new data, she was most worried about the multilingual learners.
“This population was more impacted by the pandemic,” Infante-Green told reporters. She said the purpose of the accountability scores is to determine where resources and support should be directed.
The poor English proficiency scores were widespread throughout the state, including in districts that are typically high-performing in other areas. The East Greenwich Public Schools, for example, saw strong performance in four categories in the new ratings, but still earned the lowest possible score in English proficiency.
Infante-Green said she was most encouraged by the “growth” category in the new data, which compares 2022 test scores to those from 2021. According to RIDE, 39 districts or charters scored in the mid-range on growth, meaning they received 3 or 4 points out of 6, and 17 agencies earned strong performance, earning a 5 or 6. Five agencies scored a 1 or 2 on growth.
There are no school-by-school rankings in the new accountability system, which is available for the public to view online. Infante-Green pointed out that school-based data often suppresses numbers for privacy reasons when there are only a small number of students in a particular category; aggregating the data by district allows all students to be captured in the ratings.
And she said RIDE opted not to give any districts an overall score, preferring to delineate by the areas where the district is doing well or needs improvement.
“All districts have a place they need to improve,” Infante-Green said. “What accountability is meant to do is to move the needle.”
Steph Machado (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.