While it was interesting to read that high school students in Westerly and Chariho showed the most improvement in the state on standardized tests administered throughout New England, the most appealing aspect of that news was how the two superintendents reacted to it.
In separate interviews, Roy Seitsinger Jr. of Westerly and Barry Ricci of Chariho took the results with rather large grains of salt while making different points about the education process.“You always look at these things and say, ‘This is great, is it good information? How was the data constructed and how can we use it for our purposes to inform ourselves about how to get better?’ You always want to make sure you’re doing more each day to improve the learning environment,” Seitsinger said.
For his part, Ricci said that while pleased, he caustioned against relying on any one item by which to evaluate students or the district
“I think it’s really dangerous to take one measure and say ‘That’s the measure,’” Ricci said. “There are so many other things that go into being a good school and a good district. ... There are also intangibles, like, are the kids respectful to each other? Are the adults respectful to the kids? Are the kids respectful to the adults? Do kids persist in their work? ... There’s a lot of things to think about in terms of what does a good school look like.”
Instead of dropping balloons from the rafters, the two leaders essentially said, “thanks for the reinforcement, now let us get back to the work of helping young people become smart, well-rounded individuals.” And that’s what we should all be looking for in our school districts.
The report, issued earlier this month by the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now, is based on results of the 2011 New England Common Assessment (NECAP) scores. The standardized tests are given each year to students in grades three, eight and 11 to measure their proficiency in math, reading and writing while a science test is given to students in grades four, eight and 11.
From 2010 to 2011, Westerly High School students went from 42 percent proficient in math to 46 percent. Reading scores went from 80 percent to 91 percent. In Chariho, math scores went from 45 percent to 53 percent and reading proficiency improved from 86 percent to 93 percent. Our middle schools also did well and Hope Valley Elementary was ranked first in average student performance with 98 percent proficiency. Ashaway Elementary was ninth among the top 10 most improved schools, with a 13-point increase in overall proficiency.
There’s work ahead given the math scores among our high school students, but the biggest part of any project is knowing what exactly needs to be done. Our superintendents have taken this good news as a challenge to make it better news next time around. And that’s the best approach.