Rhode Island's Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is not giving up on efforts to link test scores to a high school diploma. Gist says a new state law barring the practice until 2017 is a delay, but she is still expecting the policy to take effect three years from now.
"While I'm disappointed about this because I feel confident that we are where we need to be to carry this out, I understand the decision," Gist told RIPR during an in-depth interview. "We are going to take a little bit more time, but what we're not going to do is lower our sense of urgency."
A bill halting a controversial test-based graduation requirement will become law without a signature from Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Chafee declined to sign the bill but also declined a veto.
The bill bars the use of standardized test scores for a high school diploma until at least 2017. State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who opposed the bill, vowed to keep pushing school leaders to improve student performance.
Governor Lincoln Chafee says he is still considering whether to sign a bill that halts a controversial policy linking test scores to high school diplomas.
"We're still looking at it and talking to advocates on both sides," Chafee told RIPR on Friday, as he signed a bill making calamari the state's official appetizer.
Supporters say students should have to demonstrate minimum skill levels in reading and writing before they are awarded diplomas. That was the reasoning behind the policy, which mirrors a similar rule in Massachusetts.
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has promised to make time in her schedule to discuss new developments at the General Assembly, including a bill that orders a halt to standardized testing as a requirement for a high school diploma.
Gist has advocated in favor of keeping the testing policy, which she says is will ensure that students graduate ready for the challenges they may face after high school. But lawmakers voted to halt the use of exit exams until at least 2017, citing concerns about students with disabilities, among other issues.
The State Department of Education says roughly 95 percent of this year's high school seniors have met a controversial new graduation requirement involving test scores. Nearly 500 students met the requirement by getting a waiver from their school districts.
Most high schools have already held graduations, but RIDE says it does not have a final number for how many students were prevented from receiving diplomas because of the testing requirement. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told RIPR students can still appeal graduation decisions.
State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has declined to comment, at least in person, on Providence's waiver of the testing portion of the state's diploma system for roughly 200 seniors. She did provide the following written statement to RIPR, via email.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear testimony Wednesday on a bill that would ban test scores as a high school graduation requirement. A state policy requiring test scores has come under fire from critics, who say it is unfair to low income and minority students. But State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has been a strong supporter, arguing that it will ensure that no student graduates from a Rhode Island high school without basic knowledge of math and English.
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.
Rhode Island lawmakers are slated to consider a bill Wednesday that takes on one of the most contentious issues in public education. The bill calls for a commission to study the Common Core Standards, a new set of national standards for K-12 classrooms.
Rhode Island teachers are already using the standards, and they will soon give students a new standardized test to go with them, but a growing number of critics charge the standards are stressing students out.