Introduced on February 26, 2014 the Rhode Island House Health, Education and Welfare committee heard the following testimony on the following bills:
H7095(Representative Gregg E. Amore-East Providence) Propose a five year moratorium on the use of standardized tests as a requirement for a high school diploma.
H7327(Representative Eileen S. Naughton-Warwick) Propose to delay the use of standardized tests for graduation.
H7256(Representative Maria E. Cimini-Providence) Propose that no statewide assessment would be used to determine a student’s eligibility to graduate.
These bills alter or abolish in one way or another the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) from creating or maintaining a policy that requires students to receive a 2 or better on the NECAP test assessment (New England Common Assessment Program). Students can receive scores of 0, 1-below proficiency, 2-nearly achieving proficiency, 3 achieved proficiency, or 4 exceeding proficiency in the Reading, Writing and Math sections of this assessment. In 2014, all students across the state must achieve at least a 2 in all sections of this assessment to be able to receive a diploma from the state.
This has become an ongoing bone of contention between RIDE and Superintendent Gist with parents and school districts who are being told that students who do not score within a certain proficiency range will not receive a regents diploma, even though they have satisfied all the other Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs). Superintendent Gist seemed to arbitrarily make this decision regarding NECAP three years ago, giving RI school district some time to implement this policy for the 2014 graduating class. If students cannot pass all or part of the assessment, they are given the chance to retake the assessment the following year. If they do not pass again, they are given another assessment in the spring. However, because so many students were adversely affected by this policy this year, Supt. Gist said that students could apply for a NECAP waiver if they were accepted into college. This has sent students scrambling to apply and be accepted into a college. Yet, she provided a catch: students could not be accepted into any college that had a rolling admissions process, such as CCRI (Community College of Rhode Island). This, too, seems rather arbitrary, because many Rhode Island students attend junior college to save money by taking their general courses at CCRI.
While these bills do not directly affect English language educators, the policy they are written/designed to change or abolish directly affects our students, who are under unnecessary pressure to perform on ONE assessment in which, they believe, their entire high school career hinges. The English Language Arts classroom instruction that suffers because too much emphasis needs to be placed on preparing and passing the assessment.
As a teacher, I can say that I hope requiring students to pass ONE assessment does not decide the fate of their diplomas. In truth, I hope H7256 becomes a reality, and I would be in the company of many other people, parents and teachers, alike.