Deborah Gist

With concern growing over the amount of time students spend on standardized testing, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has launched a review of state and local testing practices. Gist says she wants to address complaints from parents and teachers about over-testing.

“None of us wants to test students too much, and each of us can consider ways to streamline the assessment process,” Gist wrote in a letter to superintendents announcing the review, adding that the goal is to eliminate assessments that do not advance teaching and learning.

The head of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says he welcomes any further delay in linking test scores to high school graduation.

ACLU of RI Director Steve Brown says waiting until 2020 could give schools more time to address systemic problems and intervene with struggling students. But Brown says he remains concerned that the State Department of Education is simply delaying a policy that would hold students accountable for the failures of their schools.

Elisabeth Harrison

In the wake of a General Assembly decision to delay standardized testing for a high school diploma until 2017, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is now suggesting that the policy be pushed back even further to 2020. Rhode Island Public Radio Education Reporter Elisabeth Harrison asked Gist what made her change her position after arguing vigorously that Rhode Island should start linking test scores and diplomas this year.

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.

Elisabeth Harrison

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."