By ELISABETH HARRISON
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island students posted small gains this year on the state test of science. But they still lag behind their peers in New Hampshire and Vermont who took the same test. Test scores were lowest for all states at the middle and high school level. Less than a quarter of Rhode Island middle and high school students scored proficient or better on the state science test. The numbers were slightly higher than 2009, but state officials say they would like to see more improvement. Forty-four percent of elementary school students were proficient on the test. In New Hampshire and Vermont, the two other states that use the test, proficiency rates are slightly higher, but older students struggled in all three states. In Vermont, 29 percent of 11th graders scored proficient or better and in New Hampshire just 24 percent. In Rhode Island it was 20 percent. This is the third year that students in all three states have taken the test.