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.
The General Assembly is expected to wrap up the session today, with two key education issues still under discussion.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has indicated he may bring a vote on a move to stop the use of standardized testing as a requirement for high school graduation. The measure was considered dead in the water under former House Speaker Gordon Fox, but Mattiello says he is concerned about the impact of the testing requirement on students with special needs. One compromise could involve suspending the testing rule for students with special needs.
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.
Providence is granting a reprieve to some 200 high school seniors, who risk not graduating under a new state policy linking test scores to a high school diploma.
The rule, in effect for the first time this year, calls for students to score partially proficient or better on the NECAP test or improve significantly on a retake. Students can also use alternative tests or acceptance at a competitive college to earn their diploma.
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.
State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist is releasing additional results from the standardized test known as NECAP. The report will include school-level data for all Rhode Island public schools, and comparisons to other New England states using NECAP.
At the end of February, the Rhode Island Department of Education released an abridged summary of NECAP results, revealing scores for seniors facing a new test-linked graduation requirement. The early release was intended to give schools and students time to prepare if they did not do well enough to earn a diploma.
The latest NECAP scores show more high school students reaching proficiency in both reading and mathematics, although math scores continue to be lower than state officials might like.
The Rhode Island Department of Education says 36 percent of high school juniors scored proficient in math in 2013, up from just 27 percent in 2009. 81 percent scored proficient in reading, up from 73 percent in 2009.