PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Only about 36 percent of Rhode Island students in grades 3 to 10 who took a new standardized test met expectations in English and a quarter of students met the benchmark in math, according to test results released Tuesday.
Education Commissioner Ken Wagner released the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam results, eight months after public school students took it for the first time.
The results track closely with previous assessments and college-readiness rates, confirming that "we have work to do," Wagner said.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said the results are "disappointing, but not surprising." She said she's working to improve Rhode Island schools.
"Too many of our children do not have the skills they need to succeed in today's economy," she said in a statement. "Our kids deserve better."
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About 75,000 students took the test, which is designed to show how well schools helped students meet Common Core standards, which were developed by governors and school officials from around the nation and have been adopted by most states. They're designed to prepare students to succeed in their next grade level and future careers.
The state Department of Education said the test results showed "achievement gaps." Less than 10 percent of students with disabilities and students learning English met the expectations for their grade levels in English and in math. Between 10 percent and 12 percent of Native American students, black students, Hispanic students and low-income students met the expectations for their grade levels in math.
Eighteen percent of students in urban areas met the benchmark in English and 11 percent did so in math, compared to 43 percent and 31 percent, respectively, of students in suburban areas.
"We can't measure the performance of a school or school district by one test alone," Interim Providence Schools Superintendent Chris Maher said in a statement. "With that in mind, however, the results released today provide one piece of valuable data that can help us work together toward school improvement."
Results also varied widely across schools. Seventy percent or more of students at several schools scored high.
Some parents argue it's too difficult. Introduced in Rhode Island earlier this year, the test was met with strong resistance from a small but vocal group, who argued the test wasn't fair. They also argued that test preparation diverted too much time away from instruction.
Wagner said education officials plan to visit every school district and charter public school in the state to "build the partnerships that produce results," and make sure there's continuous professional development for teachers and rigorous coursework for students, among other efforts.
Taking the PARCC will become a high school graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2020, per state regulations. Wagner is revisiting that requirement.