The Providence Journal reports this morning that standardized testing is not mandatory for Rhode Island students. While that is technically true, it is also true that Rhode Island has no official procedure for parents and students to opt out of annual testing, and parents may encounter significant resistance if they attempt to do so.
Rhode Island has been granted a one-year extension to its waiver from the federal education law known as the “No Child Left Behind” Act. The law required schools to get all students to proficiency on standardized tests by this year.
The good news is Rhode Island's average improved by 5 points in both reading and mathematics. The State Department of Education says this is the first time scores have improved significantly since 2009.
More than 6,000 public school students took the SAT in the 2013-2014 school year, scoring an average of 484 in mathematics and 483 in critical reading.
With concern growing over the amount of time students spend on standardized testing, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has launched a review of state and local testing practices. Gist says she wants to address complaints from parents and teachers about over-testing.
“None of us wants to test students too much, and each of us can consider ways to streamline the assessment process,” Gist wrote in a letter to superintendents announcing the review, adding that the goal is to eliminate assessments that do not advance teaching and learning.
Rhode Island, along with all other states, is being asked to submit new “teacher equity plans,” to the U.S. Department of Education. Originally created in 2006, these plans are designed to insure that poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates by inexperienced or unqualified teachers.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is praising Rhode Island for its work implementing its original plan.
A trial run for the new standardized test known as the PARCC exam begins in Rhode Island next week. The test is slated to replace the annual NECAP in 2015, as public schools transition to a new set of standards called the Common Core.
A growing group of parents, teachers and others continue to raise questions about test and the Common Core. They are calling on Rhode Island lawmakers to stop the initiative in a movement that mirrors similar anti-Common Core efforts around the country.