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By Lindsay Lorenz
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 11:38 p.m.)
PROVIDENCE - Rhode Island’s gains in student achievement have been small in recent years, according to a report released Wednesday by the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.
In its annual State of Rhode Public Education Report, RI-CAN illustrated how the state’s nearly 143,000 students are faring in its 300 traditional public schools and 16 public charter schools.
“As you’ll see, we’ve made minimal progress in student achievement over the last few years but overall performance has been relatively stagnant and our achievement gaps remain unacceptably large,” said Christine Lopes, RI-CAN’s executive director, said in an introduction to the report.
Findings revealed that fewer than 40 percent of the state’s eighth graders are proficient in math and reading, ranking Rhode Island somewhere in the middle of the nation’s other states.
When broken down by economic status, low-income students (those eligible for subsidized lunches) are 26 points behind other students in reading, the same gap as across the United States, while falling 30 points behind the more well-off in math, two points greater than the national gap.
Latino students remain 27 points behind their white peers in reading, four points greater than the gap across the U.S., while black students are 24 points behind their white counterparts, three points better than in the U.S.
In math tests for eighth-graders, Latino students in Rhode Island tested 29 points below their white peers, six points greater than across the country, while black students in Rhode Island matched the gap with white students at a 30 point differential.
The report also states that Rhode Island has the nation’s least accessible pre-kindergarten system for 4-year-olds and currently lacks one that serves 3-year-olds.
“A great education begins with pre-K,” the report said. “Children who received pre-K education have stronger vocabulary skills, higher school attendance rates and better reading and math test scores.”
When it comes to SATs, the report notes that Rhode Island’s participation and performance has been on the decline since 2008.
In 2010, according to the report, five Rhode Island high schools were deemed dropout factories, or schools in which 12th-grade enrollment is less than 40 percent of ninth grade enrollment three years prior. The number is down from 2002, in which seven schools were deemed dropout factories.
Graduation rates from the state’s two-year colleges are the second lowest in the country. However, the graduation rate from four-year colleges is among the top 10 in the nation, at 66 percent.
RI-CAN’s report also points out that Rhode Island spends less on education than neighboring states, spending $13,699 on each pupil, as compared to Massachusetts, which spends $14,350 per student, and Connecticut, which spends $14,906 per student. The national average is $10,615 per student.
In addition to a variety of related statistics, the report did point out that Rhode Island has undertaken initiatives to improve the quality of education for its students.
“Over the past few years, Rhode Island has taken promising steps to improve schools. Our state’s successful Race to the Top applications, waiver from federal education law requirements, adoption of Common Core standards and new statewide teacher evaluation tool will push schools toward greatness,” the report said.