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RICAS scores highlighted during forum aimed at improving student skills in RI

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The recently released RICAS scores were among the topics at a forum Monday aimed at improving student skills in Rhode Island.

It is called Rhode Island Reads: The Campaign for 3rd Grade Reading.

It's an effort Kids Count and United Way have been working on for a few years now, but they say this year's disappointing RICAS scores underscore how critical it is to reach their goal.

The goal of Rhode Island Reads is to get 75 percent of third graders reading at grade level by the year 2025.

As NBC 10 News reported, Rhode Island students performed considerably lower than their Massachusetts counterparts on this the first year of using RICAS testing in the Ocean State.

There are also disparities among students in the state based on factors like gender, geography, income and race. That’s why Courtney Nicolato, who is the president and CEO of United Way RI, Way said it's just as important to look at factors outside the classroom.

"Not just internally what's happening inside the classroom, but what's happening outside the classroom,” Nicolato said. “Every kid should have a roof over their head. Every kid should have a healthy meal. There are absolute effects of that on their ability to focus and concentrate in the classroom, and so, we have to look at the full picture, the whole 360 of the child.”

The focus is on third grade because advocates say it is a pivotal year in terms of how well students will perform going forward in their education.

Right now, the number of d graders reading at grade level statewide is just 40 percent.

"I think we need to do better,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, who is the executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count. “I think there is a great amount of urgency about this issue. We need to work together to make sure all of our kids have access to equitable, high-quality education and we know their futures are on the line, so this meeting comes at a really good time because people are focused on this.”

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