Portsmouth students are No. 1 statewide in science

Once again, district outperforms the rest of R.I. in Next Generation Science Assessments

By Jim McGaw
Posted 1/25/22

PORTSMOUTH — We’re No.1 — in science, anyway.

Although local students’ results in the 2021 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) were somewhat …

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Portsmouth students are No. 1 statewide in science

Once again, district outperforms the rest of R.I. in Next Generation Science Assessments

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — We’re No.1 — in science, anyway.

Although local students’ results in the 2021 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) were somewhat disappointing, the same cannot be said for how they performed in the 2021 Next Generation Science Assessments, the results of which were recently released by the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE).

The NGSA is administered in grades 5, 8, and 11 to measure students' knowledge and practices of the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of K–12 science content standards developed and adopted by a coalition of 26 states. NGSA replaced the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) science assessments starting in May 2018.

According to Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Viveiros, who presented the results to the School Committee on Jan. 19, the assessment measures science knowledge as well as ability to think critically, analyze information and solve complex problems.

In the latest assessment, Portsmouth outperformed every other district in the state, including Barrington and East Greenwich. “Portsmouth's scores placed us at the top when compared to neighboring districts,” Viveiros said.

According to RIDE, 64.1 percent of students who took the assessment met or exceeded expectations — the highest in the state. Portsmouth’s average scale score was 65, the same as Barrington’s.

According to Margie Brennan, the school district’s science coach, not only did Portsmouth students score highest in the state for the second consecutive year in which the test was administered, but they improved on their own overall score.

The 11th-graders at high school posted particularly impressive scores, with 74.1 percent meeting or exceeding expectations and an average scale score of 70. That’s well above 11th graders in East Greenwich (68.2 percent meeting or exceeding expectations and a 68 average scale score), North Kingstown (67.2 percent/67), and Barrington (63.9 percent/66).

Brennan credited Nycole Noble, head of the PHS Science Department, and fellow staff members for all the hard work they do.

"We are proud of the hard work in science from both our teachers and students," Noble said in an e-mail.

Room for improvement

Although Portsmouth improved on its scores from 2019 — the  NGSA wasn’t administered in 2020 due to COVID-19 — there was a hiccup for eighth-graders, who saw their performance go down from 66.1 percent exceeding or meeting expectations in 2019 to 56.3 percent in 2021.

Fifth-graders, meanwhile, improved from 54.8 percent in 2019 to 59.6 percent in 2021. The 11th-graders bettered their score from 62.8 percent in 2019 to 74.1 percent in 2021.

Committee Chair Emily Copeland said while she was “very pleased to see we beat all of them,” she’d like to see the scores even higher going forward.

Viveiros agreed. “We’re heading in a good direction,” she said. “We’re putting a lot of work into science.”

Participation falls

Although student performance across all grades rose slightly statewide, participation in NGSA fell overall by 14.6 percentage points, from 96.8 percent of students participating in 2019 to 82.2 percent of students in 2021, according to RIDE. Under 80 percent of students participated in the grade 8 and 11 assessments. 

“As with other assessments administered during the pandemic, differently-abled, economically disadvantaged, and homeless students faced greater barriers to participation, with the percentage of students participating in the NGSA from those three groups falling by 17.1, 19.2, and 21.4 percentage points respectively,” RIDE stated in a press release.

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