The new RICAS exam was taken by thousands of students in third through eighth grade classrooms this past April. This is the first year those students have taken the same test used by their peers in Massachusetts.
Last year, Rhode Island used the PARCC exam, and the overall proficiency rate was similar, but state Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said the two tests are different.
“The RICAS test has a slight more rigorous cut, so to speak, for meeting expectations than the PARCC did,” Wagners said. “So the year over year results are not comparable, the only comparison this year is Rhode Island to Massachusetts.”
And that comparison isn’t favorable. In Massachusetts roughly half of students scored proficient on the test. Wagner says Rhode Island’s results are similar to those in Massachusetts when the state first adopted MCAS in the 1990s.
Wagner said the state is committed to sticking with the RICAS test. The PARCC test was unpopular when it was introduced three years ago. And, Wagner said, they blamed the test, instead of paying attention to the results.
“People didn’t understand what PARCC was trying to do,” Wagner said. “Whatever the reasons were, we attacked the test which gave us a reason not to pay attention to the message.”
That message? Wagner said Rhode Island schools have work to do to improve student achievement, especially for low-income students and students with disabilities.