Board of Education

Rhode Island's Council for Elementary and Secondary Education will take up renewals for a group of charter schools and requests for school construction funding later today. The Council will also consider a decision that could have implications for summer school programs.

In a move that seemed almost unthinkable before a change in leadership at the House of Representatives, Rhode Island lawmakers have suspended the use of standardized test scores as part of a high school diploma until at least 2017. Lawmakers have also approved legislation that limits the frequency of teacher evaluations for most teachers.

A public discussion over making test scores part of the high school graduation requirement will take place at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

It took a court order, but the Board of Education will hold a public vote on a petition over whether high school diplomas should be linked to test scores.  

Some 4,000 students failed to pass the NECAP last fall, many of them from urban schools. ACLU director Steve Brown said what’s now known about who failed the test should be an influence.

Ian Donnis

Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung wants Rhode Island to go back to having separate state boards for K-through-12 and higher education.

Fung unveiled his education plan Thursday. He said he’d make the state education commissioner report directly to the governor, and eliminate a separate post for commissioner of higher education. Fung said he believes these structural changes will improve public education in Rhode Island.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

A trial run for the new standardized test known as the PARCC exam begins in Rhode Island next week. The test is slated to replace the annual NECAP in 2015, as public schools transition to a new set of standards called the Common Core.

A growing group of parents, teachers and others continue to raise questions about test and the Common Core. They are calling on Rhode Island lawmakers to stop the initiative in a movement that mirrors similar anti-Common Core efforts around the country.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Last week, Rhode Island education officials told districts they would recommend waiving a controversial part of the state’s high school graduation requirements for students who get into college.

Those students will be allowed to receive their diplomas, even if they don’t get the minimum score required on the state standardized test known as NECAP.

The change has touched off another round of questions about whether Rhode Island should use standardized testing at all as a requirement for a high school diploma.

RIPR FILE

Seventy four undocumented students have enrolled at the state’s public colleges and universities.

They’re taking advantage of a policy the state adopted in 2011.

The controversial policy allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at any of Rhode Island’s schools of higher education. The seventy-four students taking advantage of the policy is about half the number lawmakers predicted. Ana Cano-Morales is the head of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University. She offers several reasons for the lower-than-expected numbers.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Democratic Secretary of State candidate Nellie Gorbea joins Political Roundtable this week to discuss her campaign; Rhode Island's Voter ID law, the move to create separate councils overseeing K-though-12 and higher education; and the lack of bidders for a study on the impact of not paying back investors in 38 Studios.

Rhode Island’s Board of Education votes Monday on a plan to split the board in to two separate councils. One council would focus on K-12 education, while the other would focus on higher education.

The plan comes after the state merged its separate boards of education, citing the need for better coordination of public schools and universities. Supporters said they were tired of hearing business and higher education leaders complain that graduates of Rhode Island high schools were unprepared for life after high school.

New standards for teacher programs will link quality measures to factors that include student test scores. The standards also raise the bar for admissions to teacher programs, calling for undergraduate applicants to have at least a 2.75 grade point average.

The new standards are part of an ongoing effort to improve teaching in Rhode Island's public schools. I asked Nancy Castagno from Rhode Island College to weigh in on the standards, and she said RIC and URI have both been working closely with state officials to craft the language of the standards.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

It’s October, and that means students across Rhode Island are filling in bubbles on standardized tests. The annual use of testing in math and English has become a controversial tool for rating schools, and making decisions about high school diplomas, and it will soon be part of teacher evaluations too. One researcher who started out supporting standardized testing now says its part of the problem in public schools. Diane Ravitch has become one of the strongest voices in the national debate and she spoke at the University of Rhode Island last night.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The head of the state’s Board of Education says she can’t comment on legal action taken against the board by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso says she’s going to let the legal process move forward. The ACLU took legal action this week saying a the board violated the open meetings law last week when it voted behind closed doors to reject a petition urging reconsideration of the NECAP testing requirement. 

Flo Jonic / RIPR

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is keeping up the heat in its opposition to the NECAP test as a requirement for high school graduation. The ACLU has filed a third legal action against what it calls a lack of process in retaining the controversial test.

For the third time in less than two months, the ACLU of Rhode Island has taken legal action against the state Board of Education for violating open government laws in dealing with the NECAP test.

The Rhode Island Board of Education has voted not to take up a state policy tying test scores to a high school diploma. In a 6-5 vote, the board ruled against a petition critical of the rule, which takes effect for the current senior class. The policy requires students to achieve a score of at least partially proficient on standardized state testing or improve on a retake to earn a diploma.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island teachers are breathing a sigh of relief now that state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has postponed the inclusion of test scores on teacher evaluations for a year.  

Student results on the New England Common Assessment Program were supposed to be folded in to teacher evaluations starting this school year. Gist said the policy is widely misunderstood. A year, she said, should give them ample time to clarify the policy.

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