A newly released report card for Rhode Island schools shows student outcomes following the on-set of the pandemic have been grim. Performance is down across the board, but the gap is widening for historically disadvantaged students. 

The Rhode Island Department of Education has released the first iteration of its accountability assessment, required by a 2019 statute. It details outcomes, areas for improvement, and opportunities for growth at state and district levels. 

The Local Education Agency (LEA) Accountability report found that the pandemic has hurt all students’ performance. But those most affected include:  students of color, low-income students, multilingual students, and differently abled students. 

According to Paige Clausius-Parks, Executive Director of education equity non-profit Kids Count, the pandemic has lowered the odds that these students will attend college.

“We were starting to see some promise, starting to see some gains, which we were excited about,” she said. “And, of course, the pandemic has pushed all of that, and we have to continue to work even harder.” 

Clausius-Parks said their outcomes worsened because they were already overburdened during the pandemic.

“The pandemic hit these communities the hardest. It impacted the job security, the economic stability of low income families of color. Many families with students with disabilities were impacted having to stay home with kids having health concerns, as well as the loss that many young kids faced during the pandemic,” she said.

Clausius-Parks added she was most concerned about students in the Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Woonsocket school districts. 

“We tend to focus on the school districts that have the highest population of low-income students and students of color,” she said. 

When it comes to multilingual students, Clausius-Parks said most districts across the state – 31 to be exact – are falling short of standards set by RIDE. That includes some districts that are high performing overall, but fail to adequately address the unique challenges for students who speak multiple languages. She named East Greenwich as one example.

The report card also showed that outcomes worsened especially in math, and to a lesser extent English – though the assessment showed a few variations within some demographics. Hispanic students and lower-income students tended to have worse performance in math than their peers, and boys tended to outperform girls in English. 

But Clausius-Parks said there is a silver lining.

“More people are now aware of those disparities, and more people are really motivated and committed to addressing these issues that have now come to light for them,” she said.

Patti DiCenso, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, wrote in a press release that the new report helps RIDE identify schools that need help.

“The snapshots of district performance the LEA Accountability system provides will help school communities identify their areas of strong performance as well as areas for improvement.”

RIDE said in a statement that there’s already funding set aside for some of these poorly performing groups. That includes more than $700,000 in grant funding for multilingual learners, and $4 million in grant funding aimed at extended learning opportunities between schools and their communities.

Clausius-Parks emphasized that everyone needs to come together to solve this educational equity gap.

“This is everyone's work. Every child should have access to high quality public education from pre-K through college,” she said. “All of our prosperity as a whole state really depends on our young people getting that high quality education.”

Click here to see how the schools stack up.