A vote Monday at the State Board of Education may create a leadership void at a key moment for opponents of a new test-based high school graduation requirement.
Those opponents have lined up some 20 people from the state’s higher education community to testify at Monday’s meeting, but they may be overshadowed by a vote to turn State Education Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso into the state’s Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. Governor Lincoln Chafee announced Mancuso as his choice for the post on Friday.
State Education Board Chair Eva-Marie Mancuso says she remains firm in her support for test-based graduation requirements. Mancuso says she wants the board to study whether the standardized test known as the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, is the best test to use, but she denies backing away from high-stakes testing.
"We haven't backed off from that at all," Mancuso said. "We're just looking to see if there's a measure that's better to show proficiency, other than just the NECAP."
The State Board of Education will reconsider a graduation requirement that says students must score partially proficient or better on a state test to get a diploma. Several advocacy groups have filed a formal petition with the board asking it to rescind the testing policy. The petition triggers a 30-day deadline for the board to respond.
The groups joining the petition include the Providence Student Union and local chapters of the ACLU and NAACP. They argue that high stakes testing is unfair, putting some 4,000 students at risk of not graduating.
The Rhode Island Department of Education is preparing for a large number of next year's senior class to fail their second attempt at meeting a new test-based graduation requirement.
According to a state contract with testing company Measured Progress, RIDE has ordered 3,500 versions of a retest for seniors. That represents a majority of the roughly 4,000 seniors who will attempt the test for a second time this fall.
The Rhode Island Board of Education is expected to vote tonight on a contract extension for State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. She’s been weathering heavy criticism over the last few months from some parents, students and teachers, who complain that she ignores their concerns about all of the changes happening in Rhode Island public schools. One of the most controversial issues has been a new policy of standardized testing as a requirement for a high school diploma.
A controversial new state policy says high school students in Rhode Island need a score of 2 or better on standardized state testing to graduate. That’s only partially proficient, but thousands of students didn’t make the grade when they took the test last fall. School districts are now working to get those students up to speed so they can meet this new requirement. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Education Reporter Elisabeth Harrison sat down with a district official and a Math teacher in Cranston to find out how it’s going.
Members of the student advocacy group Providence Student Union have issued an apology to Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist for making comments about her reputation. The students said they regretted the tone of a press release that said they planned to mourn the “expected ‘death’ of Commissioner Gist’s reputation.”
The comments came after Gist refused the group’s invitation of a public debate about the state’s use of standardized test scores. The Providence Student Union called it a mistake to make the issue personal.
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist urged lawmakers to pass a series of bills aimed at improving school safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting during her State of Education speech on Tuesday. She also urged passage of the governor’s budget which increases funding for public schools, colleges and universities.
Freelance policy analyst and liberal blogger Tom Sgouros is one of a number of critics raising questions about Rhode Island's use of the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, as a graduation requirement. Specifically, Sgouros has argued that by its very nature, NECAP was designed to magnify differences in student achievement, thereby ensuring that a certain number of students will score poorly every year.