Governor Gina Raimondo’s pick to lead the State Board of Education faces a hearing Wednesday. Barbara Cottam is scheduled to appear before the Senate Education Committee.
Cottam, who currently works as an executive vice president for Citizens Bank Financial Group, has a background in politics. She worked for governors Bruce Sundlun and Joseph Garrahy, and she’s married to Garrahy’s son, John Garrahy. The couple has two daughters, who attend a private school in Providence.
The State Council on Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to vote tonight on new rules for high school graduation.
The proposal would finalize a delay in the use of of standardized test scores for a diploma until 2020.
Test scores were supposed to become a requirement last year, but state lawmakers voted to pause the rule until 2017 after an outcry from some students, teachers and community groups. State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist then proposed extending the delay until 2020.
The Rhode Island Board of Education has released dates for a series of hearings on delaying high stakes testing until at least 2020.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers halted a plan to introduce standardized test scores as a graduation requirement for the class of 2014. The legislation puts off the use of testing as part of the state's diploma system until 2017.
The legislation prompted State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist to propose waiting until 2020 to introduce high stakes testing. The Board of Education is now considering the new timetable.
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.
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.
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.