standardized testing

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Students head to classrooms this week in the annual back-to-school ritual. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says this should be the year our public schools embrace teaching history and civics.

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Rhode Island will get $45,248 in federal funding to help low-income students take Advanced Placement exams.

The U.S. Department of Education announced a round of grants for more than 30 states on Wednesday. Connecticut,  Massachusetts and New Hampshire were also among the states receiving funding.

The grant amounts were based on state estimates of how many AP tests would be taken by low-income students. Federal officials said the program is intended to pay for all but $12 of the cost of each test, although states can require students to pay more.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Students in Rhode Island will take shorter standardized tests next year. 

The multi-state governing board that oversees the so-called PARCC tests, voted Wednesday to shorten testing by about 90 minutes. The change comes following criticism from teachers over the lengthy nature of the test.

Elisabeth Harrison

High School students in the Bristol-Warren Regional School District were unable to begin PARCC testing as scheduled on Monday. The district says a technical problem led them to delay testing by one day.

A spokeswoman from the superintendent's office said she was unaware of the specifics of the problem, but described it as a technical glitch. She said the district had scheduled an extra day for testing, just in case such a problem arose.

In the absence of opt-out numbers from the state, I'm keeping an unofficial tally. Here's what district leaders have reported so far.

Portsmouth: 4-5 percent going into testing; may be slightly higher or lower when they tally the final participation rates after testing window closes.

Cumberland: 4 percent (or slightly less).

Middletown: 12 refusals.

Bristol-Warren: 50 opt outs, just under 2.5 percent.

Providence: Scattered opt outs, specific numbers expected later this week.


State officials say the first day of PARCC testing passed with no major problems, although some students have refused to take the test. 

As of 3:30 Monday afternoon, a total of 18,910 tests had been started in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Department of Education reported isolated glitches, but no school-wide or class-wide problems with the new computerized exam, which is replacing NECAP as the state's annual standardized test of Math and English. 

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

PARCC testing begins Monday for thousands of Rhode Island students, who are taking the test on computers.

Critics say the test fails to accommodate students who need extra time and students with learning disabilities. But Education officials say students will have ample time to complete PARCC, whether they take it online or on paper.

Teachers across the country are under fire to increase student test scores and start using tougher standards in their classrooms. They’re also about to start using new tests to find out how their students are doing. So what is it like to be a teacher right now, and what concerns do teachers have about the changes in their classrooms? 

Rhode Island Public Radio's education reporter Elisabeth Harrison spoke with Newport Middle School Science Teacher Barbara Walton-Faria to find out. Walton-Faria is the chair of RI Teacher Advisory Council.


On of the state's two teachers' unions is calling for parents to get better information about how to opt out of standardized tests.

In a resolution, the executive committee of the National Education Association Rhode Island says the state and local districts should provide written information to parents about their right to remove children from testing.

The resolution stresses that teachers have a free speech right to talk to parents about opting out of testing, including the new multi-state test known as PARCC.

Courtesty U.S. Department of Education

Congress is hammering out new requirements for public schools and federal school funding. The current bill, commonly known as the "No Child Left Behind Act," has been controversial because of the way it uses standardized test scores to measure public schools. Changes to the bill have been proposed in both houses of Congress.  

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke with Rhode Island Public Radio's education reporter Elisabeth Harrison from Washington, D.C. to explain what these proposals could mean for Rhode Island.

The Providence Journal reports this morning that standardized testing is not mandatory for Rhode Island students. While that is technically true, it is also true that Rhode Island has no official procedure for parents and students to opt out of annual testing, and parents may encounter significant resistance if they attempt to do so.

Elisabeth Harrison

New test results show just 23 percent of Rhode Island 8th graders scored proficient or better in science,  a decline of seven percentage points from last year.

Some individual schools and districts also saw steep declines in their scores.

Education officials held off on releasing the results of the NECAP Science test while experts conducted an independent review of the test and the scoring. 

But in the end, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said they found no evidence this year's test was more difficult than last year.

Rhode Island has been granted a one-year extension to its waiver from the federal education law known as the “No Child Left Behind” Act. The law required schools to get all students to proficiency on standardized tests by this year.

Average SAT scores are in for the class of 2014.

The good news is Rhode Island's average improved by 5 points in both reading and mathematics. The State Department of Education says this is the first time scores have improved significantly since 2009.

More than 6,000 public school students took the SAT in the 2013-2014 school year, scoring an average of 484 in mathematics and 483 in critical reading.

For those of you waiting with baited breath for the latest NECAP Science test results, here's an update.

The Department of Education says they continue their discussions with testing company Measured Progress about the scores from the latest round of testing, which took place back in May.

The issue seems to be a drop in scores at one grade level, which schools in several NECAP states have noticed, according to The Providence Journal.