PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee did not include in his budget proposal this year the R.I. Department of Education’s request for a new data analyst position to help verify and release the state’s K-12 standardized test results, Target 12 has learned.

Amid the ongoing controversy into the timing of the public release of the RICAS scores, taken by students in grades 3-8 last spring, education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said in a WPRO radio interview Monday that RIDE had just one data analyst preparing the scores for release. The state received the raw data file with the scores on Sept. 12.

“I have only one person working on this,” Infante-Green said, responding to questions about why the scores couldn’t be released sooner. “If I can have more people–I have requested in my budget this year another person, because it is difficult to do all of this with just one person. We are not manned the way Massachusetts is. It’s a problem for us.”

McKee responded later that morning, telling reporters, “If RIDE needs additional help and they can’t do it internally — if they called us, then we would certainly help them out.”

But budget documents provided by RIDE shows the department did ask for help last year, requesting another person to help analyze test scores.

In a budget memo dated Sept. 30 2021, Infante-Green wrote to McKee asking for four new jobs in the upcoming budget, including a statistical analyst to help “provide analysis of the standardized test results of students as they return to school.”

The analyst’s work would help provide “greater insight into the efficacy of the academy recovery and learning acceleration programs” underway in the wake of the pandemic, Infante-Green wrote.

Her letter said “critical points of our operation” would be improved with the four new positions at the education department, which also included a multilingual learner specialist, transformation specialist and communications manager.

McKee included two of the commissioner’s requested jobs — the multilingual learner specialist and transformation special — in his budget proposal in January, but not the statistical analyst or communications manager, according to Laura Hart, the spokesperson for the Department of Administration.

The R.I. General Assembly did not approve the two new jobs.

McKee did not explain why he denied the commissioner’s request when asked about the budget proposal Wednesday.

“We included, we funded a few positions there,” McKee said, before changing the subject to the timing of the scores’ release. The governor’s political opponent Ashley Kalus has been criticizing the governor for the plan to release the scores in mid-November, after the election.

“I believe and I trust that the commissioner is on the same path as she is last year,” McKee said. “I have said publicly that I want those numbers to come out.”

McKee spokesperson Matt Sheaff added Wednesday that the governor’s offer earlier in the week to help RIDE was for “short-term, emergency support” to get the 2022 scores out faster, not a reference to anything in the budget.

Sheaff said the governor’s choice to include two of the four jobs Infante-Green requested was because they were the “top two” positions.

Sheaff said the staffing issue is not the reason the scores are being released later this year than last year, but rather because the raw data file from the private vendor, Cognia, arrived later this year compared to last year.

Target 12 reported last week that Cognia had already delivered the scores to Rhode Island, amid questions about why they could not be released before the election.

“I do not have the scores,” McKee said during a 12 News debate, responding to Kalus’ calls for him to release the scores. (McKee’s office later said he was referring to himself personally, not his administration.)

RIDE says the reason the scores are being released in November is because the data arrived in Rhode Island later than last year, when the file was received on Aug. 25 and the scores were released on Oct. 28.

The new explanation, first provided by RIDE on Saturday, had not previously been offered when Target 12 inquired about the delay in releasing the scores. Both a published schedule and Infante-Green had said the scores were expected to be released in October.

State Sen. Lou DiPalma, D-Newport, who chairs the Senate Oversight Committee, said earlier this week that Rhode Island is taking too long to release the results of a test that students took in the spring.

“There should be a little more urgency to say, ‘how do we get this in the teachers’ hands?'” DiPalma said.

He said the RICAS data should inform how teachers instruct their students, and argued the mid-November release is a disservice to students and teachers, since the school year is already well underway.

“It’s a loss of two and a half months,” he said.

The standardized test scores are often used by teachers, administrators and policymakers to determine if the state’s educational efforts are moving in the right direction. Parents also receive their own child’s individual results, which show if they are proficient in math and English language arts.

Infante-Green has said she plans to require another data analyst in her budget request this year.

Spokespeople for the R.I. General Assembly said lawmakers did approve two data positions for RIDE last year, and claimed one has not yet been hired. They also said RIDE could hire for the job even without General Assembly approval, by utilizing another vacant, funded position.

RIDE spokesperson Victor Morente did not respond to a question about why RIDE hasn’t used an open position to hire a data analyst so the RICAS scores can be released faster.

“There is no delay,” Morente said. “RIDE is within the traditional timeline of late October to late November to release assessment scores. Elections do not determine the timeline. Ultimately, results will be released and with individualized informational videos for families and students.”

The state is also compiling the results for the other standardized tests taken by Rhode Island students, including the PSAT and SAT.

R.I. Senate Republicans wrote a letter to Infante-Green earlier this week, accusing the commissioner of delaying the release of the RICAS scores and calling on her to release them.

“Every day this information is withheld is alarming, at a time when we are still trying to assess the educational impacts and learning loss that occurred, even before the pandemic,” the four GOP senators, led by state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, wrote.

The group also called for an oversight hearing into the matter.

Tolly Taylor (ttaylor@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook