January 3, 2008

RI High School Report Card: Sorting the results

Marc Comtois

The RI Department of Education released the latest RI High School proficiency ratings. Not good:

Only half of Rhode Island’s 58 public high schools are making enough progress in English and math, while the other half are failing to make adequate yearly progress — a slight dip from last year’s 54 percent.

According to the results of tests given to 12,000 juniors last March, 40 percent of the state’s high schools are failing to educate all groups of students — including special education, low-income and minority students — to the state standard on English and math tests. Because these 23 schools have failed for multiple years, they are classified as making insufficient progress by the state Education Department.

Another 10 percent of high schools have failed to educate all groups of students to the state standard for one year, and therefore are placed on a watch list, including several rural and suburban high schools: Burrillville, Cumberland, Narragansett, Westerly and Chariho Regional.

The other 50 percent of Rhode Island’s high schools — 29 schools — made adequate yearly progress in the 2006-2007 school year.

The ProJo story includes a table, sorted by town, that lists the current status of the state's high schools (a PDF is here). But that table doesn't really breakdown the data in a useful way. So I downloaded the info into a spreadsheet and played around with the sorting (here's the xls file--sort it however you want.) One option is to parse out the schools according to category: Caution, Insufficient Progress and Adequate Yearly Progress. But, if you focus too tightly on the Insufficient schools, you'll miss the fact that there are some schools making AYP that have scores below some others that have a Caution or Insufficient Progress rating. To make things more clear, I averaged the ELA and Math scores together and came up with this list:

Obviously, there are some high performing schools that aren't progressing fast enough and others that we want to be sure don't slip back. But of more concern are those schools at the bottom.

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Ya know what would help solve this problem? Paying the teachers more. Rewarding their failure is the only way to...

...continue failing?

I dunno. The reasoning behind powerful idiots like Bob Walsh boggles my mind.

Posted by: Greg at January 3, 2008 9:49 AM

Why in my mind's eye there's an image of Pat Crowley flipping the bird to the students and parents of Rhode Island?

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 3, 2008 12:04 PM

But according to Rep. David Segal's reading of a non-existent page in US News, RI's public schools are the 4th best in the country! How can his blanket assertion possibly be reconciled with all these "facts" you present here? ;)

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism
by: David Segal
Sun Dec 30, 2007 at 18:01:15 PM EST

Rules to live by: Distrust the Projo, and quote Spiro Agnew whenever possible.

One should be skeptical of all these damn lists, but given the Projo's obsession with RI's rankings along any of a million metrics -- especially when we turn up low -- don't you think that this should make the paper:

US News and World Report just ranked Rhode Island's public high schools 4th-best in the country.

**The link above is to an extensive "best high schools" report. I can't find a link to the state-by-state rankings, but they're in the hard copy from Nov 29th, which I had in my lap earier today. Let me know if you can find it online.

Posted by: Will at January 3, 2008 12:17 PM

Interesting list.
North Providence among the nonperformers? Tell me something I don't already know.
Toll Gate among the nonperformers? Shocked.
Much-maligned Cranston East making progress? Congrats.

Posted by: rhody at January 3, 2008 12:29 PM

I don't know where Segal got the #4 rank, but I did look at the US News report and saw that 3 of RI's high schools made the top 500. I recall noting that, because of the small number of RI high schools, that made RI the #1 state in terms of the percentage of its high schools in the top 500. For some reason, I can't find the chart that led to my conclusion on the US News website. Maybe it was in the print edition, but I only looked at that on the newsstand.

In general, my experience tells me that one has to be pretty careful with the scores reported in the ProJo. Here's a story that explains why: I was president of the PTO at my child's middle school. The principal reported that the school had not made "adequate yearly progress", despite having a large number of very high-achieving students.

Closer examination showed that the school had failed to meet 2 of the 39 standards (note that hitting 37 of 39 targets counts as "failing"!). The reason for the two failures was that children with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) had not achieved proficiency in math or English.

Turns out, the IEP kids range from those who need a speech coach to moderately to profoundly retarded children. The latter were asked to take the same test, and reach the same level of proficiency, as the kids without disabilities!

Apart from the fact that asking these kids to even TAKE the exam amounts to cruelty, the use of their scores to measure the school creates problems. See, if there are less than some number (50, I think) such students, their scores get averaged into the rest. If there are more than that number, they are a separate category. Thus, my school got dinged because it had a large special ed population and, surprise, surprise, they didn't do all that well in Math and English. Other schools with the same average, but too few IEP kids to count separately, did fine. This is hardly a reasonable way to measure achievement.

Another thing to consider is that there is a "basic" level and a "proficient" level on the state exams. The ProJo article is about "proficiency". From what I understand, the "proficient" level on the state test is more demanding than the national standard used to make comparisons between states. (see http://www.providenceonline.com/eastsidemonthly/education.html)

Before anyone starts yelling at me for being an apologist for the current state of the public schools, let me say that I agree that there is much need for improvement in many areas. A large number of our schools really ARE failing. I'm just saying that we should be careful about how we go about identifying the problems.

I have another thing to say, but this comment has gotten to long already....

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at January 3, 2008 2:40 PM

"Ya know what would help solve this problem? Paying the teachers more. Rewarding their failure is the only way to...

...continue failing?"

Damn. And it sounded so good for a while there, Greg ...

Posted by: Monique at January 3, 2008 10:27 PM


You might also look at the fact that RI Department of Education was indicating earlier in 2007 a change in curriculum requirements.

Check: The National Council on Teacher Quality: http://www.nctq.org/p/
“State Teacher Policy Yearbook 2007” that ranks 50 states in the administrative and laws enabling teachers to excel students to the highest levels of education; Rhode Island received a “languishing” grade.

U.S. Department of Education Determination Letters on State Implementation of the IDEA
June 2007

Rhode Island Department of Education responsible for Part B implementation received a “NEEDS ASSISTANCE”

Rhode Island Department of Human Services responsible for Part C implementation received a “NEEDS INTERVENTION”

Web Site and letters:


Then I’d start looking at individual teachers because the teachers must follow State of RI laws and rules, local cities/town school department rules and regulations, parents who don’t make sure their children get enough sleep, do homework, eat well, don’t sit in front of the boob tube all night or Xbox all night and attend school then finally unions.

Nobody gets a free pass

Posted by: Ken at January 4, 2008 12:57 AM

Ken, you discuss this on another thread as well.

According to your source, RI receives a "languishing" grade for "administrative and laws enabling teachers to excel students to the highest levels of education". Teachers are a powerful force in the General Assembly. One of their own, Charlene Lima, is Speaker Pro Tempore. Why haven't they made the necessary changes to the laws so that teachers can do their job?

As to your larger point - namely, all of the high barriers you and others list to teaching RI children. In 2005/2006, RI teacher salaries were the eighth highest in the country. We have to ask, why are we paying so much for a service which is impossible to deliver?


Posted by: Monique at January 4, 2008 7:56 AM


“According to your source, RI receives a "languishing" grade for "administrative and laws enabling teachers to excel students to the highest levels of education". Teachers are a powerful force in the General Assembly. One of their own, Charlene Lima, is Speaker Pro Tempore. Why haven't they made the necessary changes to the laws so that teachers can do their job?”

Monique that is a question you’ll have to ask Charlene Lima, State of RI Department of Education (who by the provided all information to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for there state comparisons and was sent the comparison report to make any changes and updates before report was published) and RI Association of School Principals why the administrative and laws have not been changed. I sent RIPEC the NCTQ report and RIPEC was unaware of the report.

Speaking of RIPEC, I read the “How Rhode Island Schools Compare” report you referred me to. Did you read the disclaimer at the end on the RIPEC report? If not here it is.


I see no indication in the report or numbers that American Federation Teachers salaries are included in the report thus I guess the reasoning for the disclaimer and ESTIMATES which all of the public claims that RI teacher receive eighth highest in the country salary is based on incomplete information.

You will not have to worry about the teacher salaries much longer. With the ongoing teacher bashing more and more teachers are retiring and the baby-boomers are getting ready to retire so more and more schools are loosing the experienced teachers and first year inexperienced low salary teachers are being hired.

Teacher bashing seems to be a local sport in RI. Being an educator in RI is a profession that requires a masters degree and a high school drop out can gain more attention in the newspapers suggesting how educators can't do their jobs right,

No matter how much money you pump into the school systems and no matter how much money the teacher are paid if a child does not want to learn he/she will not learn. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink and god forbid anyone suggest there might be parents or a parent responsible for making sure the child is learning or eating breakfast, lunch or in the near future maybe dinner. I understand some parents want the grading system changed because an “F” is a traumatic experience for their child

No it’s all the teacher’s fault take away their salaries and benefits. Don’t forget teachers are following the guidance, rules and laws set by the RI Department of Education and their respective school department but of course there is no reason to believe administrators have a hand in the day to day teaching of a teacher. No it’s all the teacher’s fault take away their salaries and benefits

I think teachers should be paid more because where can you work in a profession that requires a masters degree, be constantly told you don’t know how to do your job, be exposed to all types of communicable diseases, you must teach at the same time 20-25 children each who have a different personality, needs, medical needs, language and psychological needs, your workplace is locked down but there is no metal detectors to prevent guns, and all other weapons from entering, nationally your workplace gets shot up by some kid or adult every so often, a child can falsely accuse you of sexual misconduct and you lose your job before a hearing, a child can falsely interpret words or actions and his/her parent will file a police report against you, you have to work with street gangs and you’re constantly told you make too much money and it’s your fault the kids can’t pass their test because they didn’t study and complete homework.

Number one; I am glad I am not a teacher and if I were one, I’d never want to teach in RI.
Number two; I am glad I moved out of RI because I can clearly see a big difference in population thinking and local politics.
Number three; In Hawaii the NEA teachers are highly respected. Parents and business routinely go into the schools helping with painting classrooms, cleaning, landscaping, playgrounds, athletic fields and needed materials. They also spend time in the classrooms helping teachers with individual subjects or in the school libraries. There is community pride in the school system and it’s teachers.

Posted by: Ken at January 4, 2008 6:59 PM

Ken, we have said here repeatedly that we have the highest respect and admiration for good teachers (and that they certainly earn the prevailing compensation).

Are you saying that we must respect bad and mediocre teachers as much as good ones?

Posted by: Monique at January 5, 2008 7:52 AM


I and I don’t expect anyone else to support poor performance by a person who is paid with taxpayer dollars.

What I personally don’t like is lumping everyone (elementary, middle, high Special-Ed, language specialist, teacher-aides, principals, administrators) together and portraying the whole as nonprofessional carpetbaggers. Especially by people that never have stepped into a classroom to teach themselves or people making allegations based on inaccurate or misconstrued information.

The list of RI high schools contain 19 high schools (33%) where the whole student body (assuming all students took the test including integrated Special Ed students and English as a second language students) failed (it only takes one student out of 600 for the percentile to change) the English Language Arts and Mathematics standardized tests causing that High school to rated performing with “caution” or “Insufficient Progress”

Of the total 58 listed high schools whole student body (assuming all students took the test including integrated Special Ed students and English as a second language students) 39 High schools (67%) are rated meeting “Adequate Yearly Progress”

I find it hard to believe that the total high school teaching staff, iterant teachers, Special-Ed, language specialist, teacher-aides, principals, and administrators (possible numbering over a thousand) at 19 schools across the State of RI are mediocre or low performing teachers and administrators based on two tests.

Before I publicly ventured to make any public statement pointing the finger to a supposed defined cause, I would check the required state-wide curriculum implementation, requirements sent out by RI Department of Education, local school departments and how the tests were administered also there is inner-city, suburban, ethnic population, how many Special-Ed and English as a second language in each school makeup of each high school to consider before pointing the finger at a specific problem.

I probably missed an additional dozen more factors but I’m trying to keep this short.

To associate the fact that 33% of the total state-wide high schools missed the testing mark on English Language Arts and Mathematics standardized tests was due to individual over paid mediocre low performing teachers is really pushing the limits of ones imagination.

Just like the person whose article was published in porjo.com that blamed the entire current state-wide structural budget deficit solely on the RI teacher retirement pensions.

Like I have said before, people in the State of RI enjoy “teacher bashing” and “state employee bashing”.

Just remember, you would not be where you are today if it were not for a teacher and if you every might need some type of public service it might just be serviced by a State of RI employee.

There are no free rides or passes in life!

Posted by: Ken at January 5, 2008 8:33 PM


“The list of RI high schools contain 19 high schools (33%)”

Should read:

The list of RI high schools contain 29 high schools (50%)

“39 High schools (67%) are rated meeting “Adequate Yearly Progress””

Should read:

29 High schools (50%) are rated meeting “Adequate Yearly Progress”

The above numbers and specific well ranked cities and towns that should have passed but failed is very perplexing leaning me more towards the proposed 2007 standardized curriculum change and the possible standardized testing methodology.

My reasion; the above adds that many more educational staff members into the mix.

Posted by: Ken at January 5, 2008 9:27 PM

Bravo to Ken and perfectly stated. I teach now in RI having formerly taught in the West Coast, San Francisco Bay Area. I thought I have been going crazy with the educational system "norms" here....the parents, the administration, the demeaning of the teachers! I never saw anything like it. Having also worked in the corporate world, I expect and demand respect, as that is the professionalism I bring to my class...but it seems that so many do not see the real problems... a terrible changing world and worse of all....NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND...good in theory...BUT NOT IN REAL LIFE. Adminstration making check lists, making the TEACHERS push round kids into square holes, then teachers taking all the grief when it doesn't work....Well take a look. It doesn't work like that!

Posted by: Adrienne at March 14, 2008 6:43 PM
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