Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2008-2009, Rhode Island used the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) to test students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in reading and math; in grades 5, 8 and 11 in writing; and in grades 4, 8 and 11 in science. The NECAP science test was administered for the first time in 2008, and it is given in the spring. All other NECAP tests are administered in the fall. The NECAP was administered in grade 11 for the first time in 2008, replacing the New Standards Reference Examinations (NSRE). The NECAP is a standards-based test, which means it measures how well students are mastering the specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Rhode Island.

How are the tests scored?

NECAP results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four levels: substantially below proficient, partially proficient, proficient and proficient with distinction. Students are considered to be meeting state standards if they score at the proficient level or above.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject, the combined percentage of students scoring at and above the level of proficient is displayed. GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in each subject. These subgroups are identified by the Rhode Island Department of Education; if there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.

Why do the tests matter?

Rhode Island test results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. While the state assessment scores alone do not affect grade-level promotion or retention, teachers may use test results to identify students who need additional assistance.

It is important to be aware of your child’s score on the assessments and the overall scores for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child’s learning at home.

If the school’s overall results are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring and obtaining supplemental services.

A few parting words

Although test results can be an indicator of what’s happening in the classroom, they don’t tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

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