Racial group achievement gaps unchanged in RI

Achievement gaps among Rhode Island's black, Hispanic and white students have remained unchanged over the past five years, with each group improving in math and reading by four points, education officials announced Thursday.

The gap is most pronounced in math. Thirty-five percent of black students and 36 percent of Hispanic students scored at least proficient on New England Common Assessment Program tests administered last fall. Sixty-six percent of white students scored likewise.

In reading, 58 percent of black students and 55 percent of Hispanic students were proficient on the October tests, while 82 percent of white students were, according to the new data.

The state Education Department said that achievement gaps between low-income students and others narrowed in reading at all grade levels and in most grade levels in math between 2009 and last year.

Meanwhile, achievement gaps between students with disabilities and other students and between those learning English as a second language and others have generally widened.

The scores released Thursday showed some one-year declines in both math and reading in grades 3 through 8. But there were some significant improvements over the five-year period, including in grade 11, where reading and math scores were up eight points.

Third-graders have continued to struggle. Scores were down four points in reading and five points in math since 2009.

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Deborah Gist highlighted progress, especially among high school students, calling it "powerful evidence" that all students can rise to meet high expectations.

"Though we know a lot of work remains ahead, as we strive to close achievement gaps and to maintain and expand proficiency levels across the state, Rhode Islanders should be proud of how far we have come over the past five years," she said in a statement.