NECAP, the standardized test that’s become a requirement for high school graduation in Rhode Island, may be harder than most people think. A majority of adults who took a portion of the math test last weekend failed to make the grade.
On Saturday 50 adults including elected officials, professionals and community leaders took a portion of the New England Common Assessment Program math test. Thirty people, 60 percent, scored ‘substantially below proficient’, meaning they did not get a high enough score to receive a high school diploma in Rhode Island. The mock test was staged by the Providence Student Union, a group opposed to the test as a graduation requirement.
State Representative Teresa Tanzi of Narragansett was among those who flunked. "The fact that a majority of very successful adults, nearly all of whom have completed college and many of whom have advanced degrees, cannot meet this requirement should make us reconsider whether a NECAP score on its own is an appropriate arbiter for a high school graduation requirement."
Tanzi scored 20 percent out of a possible 100 percent. "For it to be used as a make or break barrier to graduation for thousands of Rhode Island students is simply unacceptable. I can tell you now that after this experience I am more committed than ever to working with my legislative colleagues to find a solution to this crisis, and I do feel this is a crisis that’s looming."
Priscilla Rivera, a junior at Hope High School, acknowledged that the adults hadn’t prepared for the test. But students aren’t being prepared either, she alleges. "For 10, 11 or 12 years we have been taught to different standards. We have not been following a curriculum aligned with this test."
According to the state Department of Education, 40 percent of Rhode Island’s high school juniors are at risk of not getting a diploma next year because of their performance on the test, commonly known as NECAP. They will have two more chances to take the test and need only show “significant improvement” to pass. Showing significant progress on the test becomes a requirement for high school graduation starting with the class of ’14.
State education officials have denounced the mock test as a publicity stunt that diverts attention from educating kids.
The chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education is blasting the adults who participated in the mock NECAP test. Education Board chair Eva Marie Mancuso says the mock test takes the emphasis off education. "We don’t need a publicity stunt. Everybody knows that change takes time. Everybody knows that these standards are very difficult. There’s no question about that. The question is how do we get our students so that that diploma means something when they leave."
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was also critical of the mock test. For too long, she says, we have had low expectations for Rhode Island students.
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