A Reversal on High Stakes Testing?

Aug 26, 2014

Rhode Island’s Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is recommending more delays for a policy linking standardized test scores to a high school diploma. Gist says she now believes the policy should remain on hold until 2020.

The comments may come as a surprise after Gist championed the test-linked diploma for months despite increasing pressure from some students and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, who said the policy was unfair to low-income students and students with disabilities.

State Lawmakers eventually voted to put a moratorium on the policy, which otherwise would have taken effect this year.

Under the moratorium, test-linked diplomas would be allowed to take effect in 2017, unless legislators took additional action. Gist initially signaled that despite the delay, she intended to carry out the policy at that time.

"We are going to take a little bit more time, but what we're not going to do is lower our sense of urgency," Gist told RIPR in July, just after the General Assembly vote.

Now Gist says she understands that students, teachers and administrators need more time to get ready for test-linked diplomas. In a statement, she says she is also revising her recommendation because the state is adopting new standards and will soon begin using a new standardized test, the PARCC.

"[E]ducators need time to focus on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards," the statement reads. "[E]ducators and students need experience with PARCC assessments prior to their use as diploma requirements; and students and their families need appropriate notice of diploma requirements that are clear and consistent."