School absences, test scores stand out in child data report

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Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur has earned a reputation as a numbers man.

On Wednesday he employed that same attention he applies to city claims and the award of contracts and bids to data he was provided by Rhode Island Kids Count. But unlike numbers, the answers he sought were not quantifiable.

Ladouceur called increases in school absences, bullying and violence alarming. The number of third graders who can’t read also troubles him.

“How do you make parents become parents?” he asked.

Recalling how his parents followed his progress as a child and took measures when he stepped out of line or performed poorly in school, Ladouceur said, a culture is being developed where teachers are expected to step into the role of parents.

Ladouceur’s questions and observation came at the conclusion of a 45-minute presentation, “Warwick Data in Your Backyard,” by Stephanie Geller of Rhode Island Kids Count, sponsored by the Warwick Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse. The presentation was held at the Tides Restaurant at the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.

Apart from Ladouceur and Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis, Mayor Joseph Solomon, Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Police Chief Stephen McCartney as well as representatives from Volunteers of Warwick Schools (VOWS), the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Warwick, CCAP, Kent County YMCA, Mentor Rhode Island, Tides Family Services, the RI Community Food Bank and Child Inc. were in attendance.

In response to Ladouceur, Geller suggested giving parents the resources such as high quality learning summer programs for their children, thereby empowering them. She also made a connection between low test scores and absences, suggesting that some parents don’t see the importance of attendance in early elementary grades. Those trends not only impact test scores but also set a modality that is carried forward into middle and high school, possibly leading to school dropouts.

Geller feels it is important that parents see schools as partners and that they aren’t being looked down upon. She called on schools to empower parents.

Asked what she felt was a noteworthy Warwick achievement, Geller pointed to the city’s improved graduation rate of 86 percent, up from 79 percent five years ago. As for what Warwick could do to improve, Geller called for universal breakfast where all children are provided breakfast at no cost “an easy fix.”

This is not the first year universal breakfast has been singled out as a means of improving test scores and attendance. At this time, Oakland Beach School is the only school offering universal breakfast. As of October 2017, 17 percent of the city’s low-income children eligible for a free breakfast were participating in the program. A universal breakfast program would remove the stigma attached to free breakfasts for low-income students.

Karen Ostrowsky, vice chair of the Warwick Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse, called the data invaluable in the coalition’s efforts and thanked Rhode Island Kids Count for their work.

Some of the facts:

  • Warwick child population fell 16 percent between 2000 and 2010 from 18,780 to 15,825
  • Warwick, like the rest of the state, saw an increase in population diversity between 2000 and 2010, with a decline in whites from 17,220 to 13,365, a drop of 22 percent, and the greatest growth in Hispanic/Latinos from 516 to 1,048, an increase of 103 percent.
  • There were 900 Warwick children classified as in poverty from 2012 to 2016, 6.2 percent, that is a smaller percentage by more than half of Cranston and three time of West Warwick and the state’s four core cities (Providence, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Woonsocket) at 36.7 percent.
  • The average cost of a 2-bedroom apartment in Warwick last year was $1,558 as compared to the state average of $1,385
  • In 2017 Warwick schools identified 109 children as being homeless, children as staying in a shelter or living out of a car or bouncing between homes.
  • In October of last year 17 percent of Warwick low-income children participated in the free school breakfast program as compared to 36 percent in Cranston.
  • Warwick infant mortality between 2012-2016 was 2.9 per 1,000 births as compared to a state average of 5.6. Geller said the Warwick data reflects the fact that pregnant women and new mothers “are pretty well connected to services and opportunities.”
  • While the number of children with high levels of lead poisoning has declined dramatically since 2000, 21 children, or 2.9 percent of the 712 children due to enter kindergarten in the fall of 2019 had high levels of lead reported. “There is still work to be done,” said Geller.
  • Teen birth rate in the state and Warwick is on the decline. There were 10.6 teen births per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Warwick from 2012 to 2016, which is down from 20.1 teen births from 2007 to 2011. Geller said the numbers reflect “really remarkable progress.”
  • Geller called it an “increasing concern” that in 2014, 10 percent of Warwick students were involved in a physical fight and 14 percent saw another student bring a weapon to school.
  • Geller was complimentary of data showing a decline in youths being sent to the training school, which she said is reflective of dealing with youths committing minor infractions through programs and other means.
  • Geller said 7.7 out 1,000 Warwick children are abused or neglected. That compares to a state average of 14.6 children. She said that 80 percent of those children are neglected.
  • Forty-seven percent of Warwick third graders met English language art expectations in 2017 as compared to the state average of 40 percent.
  • Geller said neither Warwick nor the state are doing as well when it comes to math. In 2017, 22 percent of Warwick seventh graders met expectations as compared to a state average of 27 percent.
  • Nine percent of K-3 students missed 18 or more days of school, which constitutes chronic absence during the 2016-17 school year. At middle school the rate was 15 percent and in high school 24 percent for the same period.
  • The rate of Warwick high school graduations in four years improved from 79 to 86 percent from 2012 to 2017.

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JohnStark

Not withstanding the fact that the data presented is 8 years old, here's what we learn:

There are fewer and fewer kids living in Warwick. Those who have stayed and attend Warwick public schools become less and less proficient the longer they stay in school. While Warwick has fewer kids living in poverty than Cranston, Cranston has more kids who are academically proficient according to the Dept. of Education, despite a lower level of per-pupil spending.

I look forward to the "Kids Count" report every year as it has comically morphed into the annual "You Need to Spend More Money" report. In this year's edition, we learn about something called "universal breakfast". Previous reports have included a call for "universal kindergarten", "universal preschool", and "universal daycare". And as these various make-work 'programs' fall neatly into place, our kids seem to become less and less proficient, pudgier, and less engaged in school. Of course, more proficient, healthier, and more engaged kids would mean less need for such programs. And that would not be good for the real beneficiaries of such programs; those whose livelihoods are dependent upon them.

Thursday, October 25
Cat2222

You can plug in as many programs to help the kids while they are on school grounds but nothing will change until the home becomes stable. That is something that is sadly lacking right now.

Thursday, October 25
WwkVoter

John I usually like your comments but you imply that expanding education exposure educates kids less (not true) and even worse, you imply that teachers are deliberately making students less proficient so as to create jobs.

Really, you are better than that nonsense.

Thursday, October 25
VoWarwick2017

Warwick Public Schools Academically have been on a decline since the 90s - the experiment of integration of IEP students into classes with Non-IEP students (in hopes of have positive lift for IEPs due to minimal social separation from age peers) is failing the Non-IEP students, there is measurable performance drag occurring as indicated by the ever falling reading and math scores.

Engaged parents with academically bright students are more than aware of the situation and are making the financial sacrifices to see their students attend schools that are better suited to educating their children for success in the future.

For an investment of 3 to 7 thousand dollars for Students attending grades K-8 at Warwick private schools students are reaching 95% proficiency in above grade level reading and 88% proficiency in above grade level mathematics! There are also fewer in class disruptions and bullying events are isolated with little to no physical altercations. So - a safer environment and better academic education.

High School is a different story with the investment being higher, between 9 and 15 thousand dollars - though there are many scholarships and financial aid available - but the success stories and by order of magnitudes higher that the public schools. Graduation Rates of 99% with 98% attending 4 year colleges with scholarships. The best Advanced Placement courses in the state - a talented student can graduate with between 9 and 14 college credits (nearly a whole semester).

Warwick Public Schools are lucky if they can teach basic math and reading, it is embarrassing that they believe they are preparing children for success and insulting that year after year they ask for more and more money when it is clear that they don't know how to get results from the millions that they are already getting.

Yes - I will admit that private schools is a financial sacrifice that not all parents can make, I will also admit that parents that send their children to private schools are typically more engaged in their children's lives and are consciously looking out for their children's future. But if Warwick wants to lure these smart families/children into their schools they MUST provide a better product than what they are offering today.

Monday, October 29
Justanidiot

VoWarwick2017: You skated all around the main issue here, standardized testing. Teachers are teaching to the test. In elementary schools that is ok because that is the mission of these grades, get some of the basics down so you can go on to where you are challenged.

Where do the good students go? Off to private schools where there are no standards and students are prepared for the real world. Public schools? No one wants to be there: teachers, administrators, and the students. It is a warehouse to keep them until they can be employed flipping burgers.

The system is broken and radical means need to be installed. Warwick should lead the way with reform and make the district an example of how things can be done.

Look at Finland and their success. Warwick can become that here in the states. All it takes is some intestinal fortitude on behalf of the society.

Monday, October 29
Cat2222

VoWarwick2017 - Some parents can't afford to send their kids to a private school but that in no way means they are less engaged than private school parents. Do you have stats to back up that statement or is it just an opinion. I had no idea there was a direct correlation between engagement and paycheck!

Monday, October 29
VoWarwick2017

Justanidiot - I did not skate around the issue because I don't think it is at the core of the problem. Private Schools do administer standardized tests and have strict curriculum (unless they are Montessori base teaching theory, I believe there is only one Montessori based school in Warwick). I firmly believe that if teachers focused on core curriculum then the standardized test scores will take care of themselves. Administrators are the ones testing out theories on full generations of kids and refusing to admit when they fail because of the level of consequences associated with admitting that their failure negatively impacted the lives of hundreds of children who will struggle their whole lives.

Having a set of standards per grade level is required to measure the performance of the educational product being offered, having a testing process to measure that performance is critical in providing the information needed to determine if change (quick change is required). Warwick test scores are screaming that there is a problem and the School Board and the cast of clowns administrating our schools are refusing to respond because they are too afraid that parents will call them out on unpopular decisions.

Cat2222 - I am fully aware that not every parent has enough money to send their child to private school; however, I am also aware that there is readily available financial aid for all levels (K-12) and if a child is truly exceptional the private schools will bend over backwards to get them and keep them in - case in point Rocky Hill offered a full ride (tuition free) for 4 years of High School to a student that tested in the top 3%, the student's parents didn't even have the money for the entrance exam. Catholic Schools in Warwick all have programs to help defer or eliminate costs for families.

Also, a parent that is fully engaged in seeking better educational options would demand of the school district vouchers for private school or busing to districts that can actually educate their students. I never said it was easy, in fact finding the best education for your child is one of the hardest things a parent can do and it will be filled with sacrifices (money, convenience, time, time, time and time). Sometimes the hardest thing for a parent to do is set pride aside and ask for help - the help is out there just waiting for people to ask for it.

I want to be clear here, I am not saying that public school teachers universally are not doing their jobs. As a teacher, parent and tax payer I am saying that public school teachers are not being allowed to do their jobs in the most efficient environments. IEP students mixed with Non-IEP students causes disruption, impacts teaching/learning time and is a measurable drag on the success of Non-IEP students. Common Core as a curriculum is flawed and does not create a pathway to success. Teaching to the lowest common denominator in the class room is hurting the other students. There are way too many parents that don't give a fig for the value of education and send their children to school angry and non-engaged.

Tuesday, October 30
Justanidiot

VoWarwick2017, it is too bad that if you have money you don't really care about the community. Public schools? Those are for the riff raff that are no good anyway. We don't want our precious children exposed to them. We want our children to succeed so that in a few years they can put their feet on the necks of the uneducated low-lifes.

Tuesday, October 30
Motown2020

As a parent who had 3 kids in the Warwick school system and took them out of the school system I think I have a unique perspective on the state of Warwick schools. All 3 of my kids would come home from school and mention how bored they are and because of the inclusion classes the teachers concentrate more on those kids and leave the rest to fend for themselves plus coupled with the work to rule nonsense we knew it was time to seek alternatives.My kids are very bright students at the top of their class so we knew it was time to take action and find a school that will challenge them. Did some research and there are programs out there that allow for parents to put their kids in different schools. Warwick makes it difficult to seek out the information because the city has to pay for it. 2 of my kids go to a public school in a different district and my youngest goes to private school. Sacrifices have to be made but it''s worth it when my youngest comes home with a big smile and recounts all that he learned that day. It''s light years ahead of his counterparts in Warwick public school.

Public Schools in general are not the problem. It''s the Warwick public schools that are. My other 2 are thriving in a different public school system where they feel challenged. Being in a system where the teacher is able to focus on the whole class and not the few has made a difference. All 3 are still at the top of their class. I wish we could have kept them in Warwick but in my opinion Warwick lacks the ability to push kids to do better.

Tuesday, October 30
VoWarwick2017

Justanidiot - What parent doesn't want the very best for their child? I find the substance of your statement incredibly loaded and intentionally misleading. If a parent wants the best for their child and can make those opportunities happen they must be bad people because they don't care about all the other kids in the community. That is hostile logic that ideologically based.

Studies have shown (and Warwick is evidence of this) that having over achieving students mingled with under achieving students does NOT provide lift for the under achieving students; rather there is a noticeable drag on both academics and behavior. Studies have also shown that is over achieving students and mingled with other over achieving students that scores go up! But all that doesn't matter does it? We would rather live in a community of under achievers because that way no one feels bad about not doing well, everyone becomes the same as the lowest common denominator that will make things so much better.

Wednesday, October 31
Thecaptain

Yet, given the deplorable buildings, substandard education, lack of extracurricular activities, the teachers were still rewarded with 13.4 million dollars in raises in this contract. Well done Scott Avedisian.

Wednesday, October 31
Cat2222

VoWarwick2017, I asked for facts, you gave me a lecture. Your response reeks of condescension. Unimpressed

Wednesday, October 31