Chafee on Testing Bill: We're Looking at It

Jun 30, 2014

Governor Lincoln Chafee says he is still considering whether to sign a bill that halts a controversial policy linking test scores to high school diplomas.

"We're still looking at it and talking to advocates on both sides," Chafee told RIPR on Friday, as he signed a bill making calamari the state's official appetizer.

Supporters say students should have to demonstrate minimum skill levels in reading and writing before they are awarded diplomas. That was the reasoning behind the policy, which mirrors a similar rule in Massachusetts.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has argued that students who leave high school without basic skills are more likely to struggle in college and the workplace. She has also given broad powers to school districts to provide waivers to students they believe should graduate.

But critics have kept up a drum beat of complaints about the policy, citing its unfair impact on students, especially those in low-performing, urban schools. They have also pointed out that the NECAP, Rhode Island's standardized test, was not originally conceived as a high school exit exam, and they believe it is unsuitable for that purpose.

The bill passed by the General Assembly would delay any policy linking test scores and high school diplomas until 2017. There is a chance the governor will take action on the bill sometime this week.