Superintendent's Message » Superintendent's Message

Superintendent's Message

Superintendent’s Message 

December 2022

I hope this message finds you and your families enjoying the holiday season. The first quarter of the school year has ended, and we are looking ahead to the end of the first semester of the year. The time goes by very quickly every year, but this year especially, it is flying by because of all of the great things going on in our schools and our classrooms. We have seen the return of wonderful traditional events this year as well as some new traditions. Seeing so much activity in our school communities once again adds to the excitement of the school year and the speed in which the time flies. Our fall sports season has ended and our winter sports have begun. We have participated in fall food drives, parades, walks to school, and road races and we are enjoying the season of winter concerts and theater productions. Our school construction projects are moving along, despite unprecedented supply and delivery challenges. It is all good news. 

However, we would be remiss if we did not address the news of test scores which were released this fall also. As predicted, our test scores showed what we already knew to be true: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student’s attendance at school and on their mental health has significantly impacted their learning. Nationwide, statewide, and here in our district, we are all seeing the impact of those factors on standardized test scores. 

It’s important to remember however, that there are more factors to consider when we look at our test scores, than just the pandemic. When we look at test scores, we consider a wide variety of factors such as attendance, socioeconomics, demographics, and language barriers. Poverty and access to resources have a huge impact on student learning and achievement. When we receive our RICAS data, we also take a deep dive into the data for each individual question on the test so that we can see the types of struggles our students are having with the actual questions. Is it a specific topic they are struggling with, or is it a type of question such as a constructed response, for example, or a multi-part question, that’s throwing them off? 

Chronic absenteeism for the 2020-21 school year was up from 8 million chronically absent students in past years to at least 10.1 chronically absent students in the first full year of the pandemic, according to national data from the US Department of Education. We continue to emphasize that attendance in school every day when students are well matters greatly. We have explained that the learning loss that takes place when students are absent will impact standardized test scores, such NAEP scores, RICAS scores and PSAT and SAT scores. 

Students’ access to resources throughout the pandemic differed from student to student, leading to significant gaps in test preparedness across the nation. For example, when taking the NAEP test, students were asked to answer questions about their education during the pandemic. Their responses shine a light on the ways in which our student standardized performance was impacted by the pandemic and by access to resources. 

  • According to the data from the Nation’s Report Card, 70 percent of nine year-old students recalled learning remotely during the last school year while just 19 percent of students were in person. 
  • Further, 11 percent of students did not remember.  
  • Only 30% of those students who recalled learning remotely during the 2021-22 school year, and who performed below the 25th percentile stated that they had a quiet place to work some of the time, as compared to those who scored above the 75th percentile, who shared that they had a quiet place to work 45 percent of the time. 
  • Only 15% percent of those students who performed below the 25th percentile stated that they had someone to help them with their schoolwork about once or twice a week, as compared to 23 percent of students who scored above the 75th percentile.

All of that said, although those numbers show a gap in performance between the two subgroups, the numbers for the high performing students are not good either. They show the severe impact that the attendance of students in person in school each day does have on learning.

We have also continued to share with our families that we understand the impact of the trauma suffered by students and families during COVID-19 as well as the time spent at home had on student mental health. In the spring of 2022 Rhode Island Kids Count issued its annual report which showed worsening mental health conditions for our students statewide. 

Some of the statistics reported at that time by Kids Count included the following:

  • Bradley Hospital’s 24-hour Kids Link Rhode Island hotline saw a doubling of calls from 4,849 to 9,702 between the fiscal year 2019 and the fiscal year 2021. 
  • In 2021 467 teenagers were admitted to a health care emergency center after a suicide attempt compared to 334 in 2020. Of those admitted, three quarters of them were girls.
  • Families whose children and youth are in crisis continue to have trouble accessing services because of the workforce crisis in staffing.

The newest report from Kids Count confirmed that although calls to Kids Link Rhode Island are down as compared to this time last year, nearly 40% of high school students surveyed said they feel sad or hopeless and only one in five say they've received help. Those who identify as LGBTQ have higher rates. Youth of color were less likely to receive treatment.

We will continue to see this type of impact still for years to come. However, Cranston Public Schools is dedicated to supporting our students and their families as we navigate through this post-pandemic time. To that end, utilizing our LEAP funds from the RI Department of Education, we have implemented the following:

  • Summer learning opportunities for students K-12
  • Highly rated “green” curricula in our schools in the areas of math and English language arts.
  • Increased in-school academic support and intervention for our students
  • Increased mental health resources and staffing supports for our students at all levels
  • Increased sharing of mental health resources with our families through our weekly Family Community Message and through our school support staff
  • Increased focus on engaging our students in the classroom every day so that students want to come to school.
  • Increased emphasis for our families and our students on the critical importance of attending school every day when they are well. 
  • We are working to make sure that every school has established attendance teams to personalize the resources and support in place for students and families who are struggling with attendance. 

These efforts must also be a community effort and an effort by families as well as an effort for our school department. We need everyone to work together across our city to make attendance in school a priority. We need families to make sure their students are going to school every day and that they are on time every day. If you need help getting your child to school, we need you to let us know. 

We need our community partners such as business owners, community sports organizations and faith communities to help support our message that attendance in school all day, every day, is vitally important. Help support families in need by helping each other get kids to school, by helping to spread the word about how much chronic absenteeism impacts education.

We cannot teach students who are not in their seats in the classroom every day. All the highly rated curricula in every subject matters not, if students aren’t there for in-person instruction. We cannot work to remedy the impact that the pandemic has had on our families and students without everyone’s support and cooperation. We are working hard in our classrooms day in and day out. We are delivering high quality curriculum and instruction to our students who are there each day. We are preparing our students for the standardized tests that they will need to take throughout their educational careers, now and in their post-secondary experiences. Help us to help them by making attendance a priority. 

Standardized tests are not the be-all and end-all of a student’s educational experience, and we recognize and always emphasize that, but they are reflective of a piece of the educational puzzle and they provide us with data that we can use to continue to help our students reach new levels of achievement.


Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse and

The Cranston Public Schools Leadership Team