Goho cites bigger picture in comparing Lincoln, Cumberland

Goho cites bigger picture in comparing Lincoln, Cumberland

RICAS disparity happens at the middle school level, he says

CUMBERLAND – Cumberland school officials say they won’t get into a back-and-forth with their counterparts in Lincoln about which school district is performing better, choosing instead to focus on the business of moving their own district forward.

Asked to fact-check a letter to the editor this week from Lincoln School Committee Chairman Joseph Goho comparing the districts on measures other than state Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System tests, Cumberland Supt. Bob Mitchell declined.

“I don’t feel the need to reply to the letter,” he said.

Goho said the two spoke on Monday, telling The Valley Breeze that everything contained in his letter is factual.

In his letter, he compares the districts as a whole using RICAS and other measures, later telling The Breeze the wider comparison is valid because accountability ratings also include PSAT/SAT scores and graduation rates.

The Breeze reported last week on Cumberland’s continued growth in the RICAS tests for grades 3-8, where the town is outperforming Lincoln despite having $4,000 less in funding per student.

In his letter of response this week, Goho said data doesn’t lie, and the district needs to own the data whether it suits officials or not. He commended Cumberland students and educators for their outstanding work on RICAS, saying Lincoln school leaders hope to model some of the structures put in place in the neighboring town “to obtain such outstanding results.” He said Lincoln leaders and staff know that their results need to improve.

That said, Goho added, a closer look at the data indicates relatively comparable scores at the elementary level. The sharp disparity with Cumberland comes at the middle school level in grades 6-8.

“Over the last several years, Lincoln Middle School has experienced a great deal of tumult and leadership turnover,” he wrote. The district is fortunate to have outstanding teachers at that level, who are now led by a dynamic administrative team, he said. Research is clear about the positive impact of stable and effective leadership.

Other achievement data “fills in the rest of the comparison story,” said Goho, specifically at the high school level, where the Lincoln School Department closes the gap. In comparing Advanced Placement proficiency scores to Cumberland and any other Rhode Island community, Lincoln ranks number one, while Cumberland ranks 20th.

“It is well established nationally that AP is the gold standard of student assessment,” he said. “Also at the secondary level, Lincoln students outperform their Cumberland counterparts in some areas, and are comparable to them in other areas, on the PSAT and SAT tests, also nationally recognized indicators of college readiness. Lincoln also has a slightly higher graduation rate. In any comparison between K-12 school systems, we must own all of this data as well.”

Cumberland, he said, benefits from the stable leadership of Mitchell and Assistant Supt. Antonio DiManna, now in place for several years. Lincoln has an entirely new district and school leadership team.

“With this leadership team in place over the next several years, as has been the case in Cumberland, we expect to experience similar results in Lincoln,” he wrote.

There is ample evidence, Goho said, that Cumberland and Lincoln students outperform many of their peers statewide, and both of these communities have exemplary school systems.

On the per-pupil expenses front, he said, the Lincoln School Committee is committed to providing students with high-quality education in a fiscally responsible way. A recently renegotiated teacher contract provides savings of about $1.2 million to taxpayers, one example of a continued effort to responsibly manage per-pupil spending while not compromising quality of education for students, he said.

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