In July, Governor Lincoln Chafee allowed the New England Common Assessment Program testing (NECAP) postponement bill to become law. The similar bill passed the senate earlier in the spring, and was being held up in the house by Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, who felt as if the NECAP graduation requirement was still acceptable, considering the multiple pathways high school seniors had been given to qualify for graduation if they did not receive a score of 2 or better on any of the NECAP assessments. These alternative requirements included applying to and being accepted to college and taking the ASFAB exam and receiving a minimal score. However, at the end of June, Mattiello did bring the house bill to the floor, and it passed with a majority vote. This new law will delay using high-stakes testing as a graduation requirement until 2017, as Speaker Mattiello alluded, “[until] we have a more appropriate test.”
Many students in the 2014 graduating classes across the state were able to graduate, with a few exceptions, including Molly Coffey, a Barrington senior, as reported in the Providence Journal. Molly “narrowly missed the passing score on the NECAP.”
Of course, with the emergence of PARCC as the new statewide exam looming in the immediate future, many teachers are anxious to see if these tests will be adopted as requirements for graduation. We shall see. While this delay takes the heat off of the students for three years, it also alleviates tension in ELA classrooms, as 66% of the NECAP exam focused on reading and writing. Most of the six weeks leading up to the testing in early October was taken up by test prep. While ELA teachers may continue to prepare students for the next NECAP (which may be the last, since it will be replaced by PARCC), the first six weeks of school will not be dominated by the pressure of having to pass this exam. However, what this may do to scores, now that the tests are no longer high-stakes, is a mystery.