High stakes testing, budgets and geography

Oct 3, 2012

The Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education meets this week to consider a budget request for the coming fiscal year.

The Department of Education is preparing two scenarios:  one for level-funding and one for a seven percent decrease.

This is one of just two meetings and two work sessions remaining before the board is dissolved in favor of a single Board of Education. The new board will oversee both elementary and secondary schools and Rhode Island’s three institutions of higher education.

While testing is not on the agenda for Thursday, the board is likely to get an earful from critics of a controversial change in graduation policy. This year’s junior class will have to reach a minimum score on state math and reading tests to graduate. Many people are not happy about the requirement, and they plan to make their feelings known, according to The Providence Journal.

State education officials defend the graduation policy, saying students who do not reach the minimum score will have a chance to re-take the test and may still be allowed to graduate if they can demonstrate mastery of the required content. Based on last year’s testing, some 44 percent of students would fall into this category.

Governor Lincoln Chafee’s office says he is concerned about the new graduation rules, but it is not clear whether he had a chance to broach the issue with Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. She is now recuperating from surgery on a benign brain tumor and is not expected to return for at least two months. The Governor’s office says he either has met or plans to meet with education officials about the graduation policy.

Also on the agenda for Thursday, an addition to state standards for civics and social studies. The change would add geography to existing standards.