Providence City Council Calls for Pause on High Stakes Testing

Jan 21, 2014

The Providence City Council wants to delay a testing requirement for high school seniors, taking effect for the first time this year. The council unanimously passed a resolution last week requesting the pause, citing new advice from education officials that would exempt students accepted at competitive colleges.

Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier says the exemption seems unfair to most Providence students, who are more likely go to community college or straight to work.

“I just don’t see the logic to it,” said Zurier. “It’s very hard to say that one group of children is more deserving of a diploma than the other, when both have had equally poor academic achievement.”

Thousands of students around the state, including more than 1,000 in Providence worked over the summer and into the fall to prepare for a retake of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). If they improve their scores, state officials say they will be allowed to graduate. State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has repeatedly stressed that school districts can also grant waivers to students whose test scores do not represent their high school performance.

Despite this, Zurier says he remains concerned about the outcome for a large number of Providence students, especially after speaking with school officials, who are preparing to notify students who failed to improve enough on the re-test.

“What we know is that the majority of Providence children, more than 1,000, had failed to pass the NECAP math component of the test. Therefore even if two-thirds of them succeeded, that would still leave several hundred of them falling between the cracks,” explained Zurier.

In passing the testing resolution, the Providence City Council declared that waiving high stakes testing for college-bound students amounts to tacit acknowledgement that the entire policy is flawed.

“Why not extend that waiver to all students,” said Zurier.