standardized testing

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.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Thousands of high school students across Rhode Island learn this week whether they improved enough on a standardized test to earn a diploma. The state is releasing NECAP scores for all students, including 4,000 high school seniors who had to re-take the test. One of them, Providence Senior Ruth Presendieu stopped by our studio to talk about what it’s like to be a member of the first Rhode Island class whose graduation is linked to standardized testing.

Philadelphia is firing principals in the latest scandal over cheating on standardized tests. As The New York Times reports, a large number of erasure marks in testing booklets raised red flags and led to the investigation that uncovered the cheating.

The scandal, one of the largest in the country, has implicated 137 educators at 27 different schools over a three-year period.

One of the most contentious issues in education remains high-stakes testing. In Rhode Island most of the strum and drang revolves around the New England Common Assessment Program Test.

This year, for the first time, R.I. high school seniors will have to pass the NECAP test to get a diploma. But the Rhode Island Department of Education, with little fanfare, on January 3rd issued a waiver policy that has been slowly circulating among education wonks and professionals around the state.

New international testing results show American high school students are only about average when compared to their peers in the developed world. The test, known as the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA, has long been a source of hand-wringing about American competitiveness and calls for more urgent reforms in public schools.

Here are some highlights from the 2012 PISA test:

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island eighth graders inched upwards on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2013. The standardized test of English and Mathematics, often called "the Nation's Report Card," is administered to groups of 4th and 8th graders around the country.

Rhode Island, like the country on average, has seen scores improve since the early 1990's. Overall, the state's students scored at or slightly above than the national average in 2013.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Achievement First is a brand new charter school in Providence that also operates schools in Connecticut and New York.  Critics fought hard to keep it from opening in Rhode Island, arguing that among other problems, it would take money away from other public schools. But supporters and organizers from Achievement First say they are offering an alternative to public schools that are struggling. Rhode Island Public Radio's Education Reporter Elisabeth Harrison took a tour of the Providence school.

Elisabeth Harrison

I had a chance to sit down with Diane Ravitch this week prior to her talk at the University of Rhode Island. She told me she thinks Rhode Island should give up the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) as a graduation requirement and halt plans to add test scores to teacher evaluations.

Ravitch also weighed in on charter schools, saying she believes they can play a helpful role in some circumstances. Here's the full interview.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

It’s October, and that means students across Rhode Island are filling in bubbles on standardized tests. The annual use of testing in math and English has become a controversial tool for rating schools, and making decisions about high school diplomas, and it will soon be part of teacher evaluations too. One researcher who started out supporting standardized testing now says its part of the problem in public schools. Diane Ravitch has become one of the strongest voices in the national debate and she spoke at the University of Rhode Island last night.

Paul Stein JC

Standardized testing is underway in Rhode Island public schools, where students take the New England Common Assessment Program or NECAP every October. The tests of math and reading are administered to grades 3-8 and 11 between October 1st and the 23rd. This year some 4,000 12th graders are also taking the test and must improve their scores to meet the state’s controversial new test-based graduation requirement.

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union plans to announce yet another lawsuit in its ongoing battle over high-stakes testing.

Critics of a state policy tying high school diplomas to test scores point out that 4,000 seniors are at risk of not graduating, and they are overwhelmingly,  minority and low-income students, along with students with disabilities. However, state officials have been standing firm, arguing that students have multiple opportunities to show improvement on the test and earn a diploma.

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.

Elisabeth Harrison

As Rhode Island grapples with high school diplomas tied to test scores,  Massachusetts students have faced a similar requirement for a decade. Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison visited Attleboro High School to find out how high-stakes testing has changed what’s being taught.

Rhode Island is one of 26 states that have promised to consider new science guidelines known as the Next Generation Science Standards. The standards were developed by the same organization that created the Common Core, a group of national standards many states including Rhode Island are now adopting for Math and English.