PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s SAT and PSAT scores dipped further this year, as proficiency in math and English language arts remains lower than before the pandemic.
The R.I. Department of Education released the scores Thursday for the two College Board exams, which are taken by 10th and 11th grade students in Rhode Island, respectively, as the official state assessment.
The PSAT and SAT scores are typically released alongside the scores for the RICAS, the test taken by elementary and middle school schools in the spring. But the RICAS scores are not expected to be released until mid-November this year; RIDE officials say they are still validating the scores they received on Sept. 12.
The topline numbers on the SAT show just 25% of 11th-grade students statewide are proficient in math, meaning they scored at least 530 out of 800. Students that scored in the “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” categories are considered proficient, which is also Rhode Island’s benchmark for college- or career-readiness.
That number is a slight drop from last year, when 26% of students were proficient in math, and six percentage points lower than before the pandemic, when 31% of 11th-graders were proficient in math on the SAT.
In English language arts, 47% of 11th grade students statewide scored proficient, a small dip from 48% last year. In 2019, pre-pandemic, 50% of students were deemed proficient on the test. (There was no testing in 2020.)
The lowest-performing traditional school districts on the SAT were Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, East Providence and Providence, all of which saw slightly worse scores this year compared to last year.
In Central Falls, the math scores were so low that they weren’t shared; RIDE suppresses the data for confidentiality reasons if fewer than 5% of students meet expectations on the test.
On the high end, the top-scoring districts on the SAT were Barrington, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown and Portsmouth.
Providence, the state’s largest school district that is under the control of the R.I. Department of Education, kept math SAT scores flat at 13% proficiency. But eight out of Providence’s 10 high schools had scores too low to report, meaning somewhere between 95% and 100% of 11th-graders are not considered proficient in math.
Classical High School, the district’s top high school that requires an exam to be admitted, had 55% of students score proficient in math on the exam. The only other Providence school that exceeded 5% was Times2 Academy, where 6% of students were proficient in math.
English language arts dropped by one percentage point in Providence from 29.7% in 2021 to 28.6%.
Classical scored high at 82% proficiency, a decrease from 88% last year, placing it third statewide on the English exam.
The highest-scoring school statewide on the math SAT was Barrington High School, at 68% proficiency, while East Greenwich High School took the top spot in English language arts at 84%. (East Greenwich was the only high school to break 90% last year.)
On the PSAT, the test taken by 10th-grade students, 59% statewide were proficient in English language arts, nearly flat compared to last year, and 29% were proficient in math, a two-point drop from 2021.
State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green declined an interview Thursday through a spokesperson, but in a statement noted an increase in participation in the test this year.
The exam is mandatory, but student absenteeism was high during the pandemic, and students may have missed school on the exam day or the makeup day.
“Rhode Island’s SAT and PSAT scores demonstrate that the impact of the pandemic is still evident, but we were able to hold the line on performance and improve participation,” Infante-Green said.
“Part of Rhode Island’s recovery is increasing access to resources and opportunities that will empower educators and help get students back on track,” she said. “Through expanded high-dosage tutoring, more high-quality out-of-school learning opportunities, and additional supports for school leaders, we’re better positioning our students to make up ground and be ready for success in college or career post-pandemic.”
While most high schools saw scores drop, there was one significant outlier: Mount Hope High School in Bristol-Warren saw a huge increase from 48% proficiency on the English SAT last year to 72% this year.
The jump puts Mount Hope’s proficiency level even higher than before the pandemic, when the regional high school scored 67% proficiency.
Reached by phone, Bristol-Warren Superintendent Ana Riley said the big jump was not surprising; she credited the increase to Patrick Jackson, head of the English department, who led an initiative to improve the scores after the 20-point drop during the pandemic.
“He met with his English staff and said, ‘I know we can do better,'” Riley said.
Riley said Jackson built model lessons for fellow teachers and reviewed SAT-prep questions during class.
“He just really built this sense of community amongst his teachers and the kids that this was important and they all could do it,” Riley said. “It’s just really exciting to have a turnaround story in our district.”
In the below databases, you can search the SAT scores in math and English by school and by district.
Tolly Taylor contributed to this report.