Gist responds to diploma system critics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist disputes the claim that 90 percent of black and Hispanic students would get no diploma or a partially proficient one under a new system.

She says the coalition of groups that spoke out at a press conference yesterday has mis-characterized the basic Rhode Island diploma created under the system.

"Calling the Rhode Island diploma as we've laid it out in the diploma system a low diploma is inaccurate," Gist says. "It is right now the diploma that every student receives under the current regulation so I just think that's really not accurate and I think it's exaggerated."

Gist says the real problem is not the new graduation requirements but a public education system that does not provide students with the skills they need.

Her response comes after a diverse group of community organizations warned of what they call the devastating' effects of proposed new high school graduation requirements.

The state Board of Regents has proposed a three tier diploma system: one for students who score partially proficient on state tests; the other two for students who do better than that.

Ten community groups say the proposed requirements would put nearly 90 percent of non white, Hispanic and disabled students at risk of receiving no diploma or the lowest level one. Tish DiPrete says her group - the Urban League - is extremely concerned.

"We don't think a student's life should hinge on this one test," DiPerete says. "It's shown historically that standardized tests are found to be biased."

The Board of Regents will hold its third and final hearing on the proposed graduation requirements at 5 p.m. tonight. A vote is expected in March.

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