Mining a tradition that stretches back to Athenian democracy and probably much earlier, members of the Providence Student Union (PSU) engaged in political theater to protest the “the ill-conceived experiment” of “Rhode Island’s new high-stakes testing graduation requirement” yesterday in the State House rotunda.
The event was timed to occur two days before the release of the NECAP results which will reveal which students will not be earning a diploma and graduating this year.
In “Operation: Guinea Pig” students dressed as guinea pigs and lab rats because, as PSU member Jose Serrano said, “that is how we are being treated.” Serrano continued, “The Department of Education hypothesized that high-stakes testing alone, without the extra resources our schools need, would solve our education problems. But this was an unproven gamble, which is becoming clearer with every exemption and waiver and backtrack that RIDE releases. This crazy experiment is playing with our futures, and we are here to say this needs to stop!”
State Representative Teresa Tanzi also spoke at the event, urging her fellow legislators to pass bills that would change the NECAP from a requirement for graduation to a diagnostic tool, or put aside the NECAP requirement pending a five year study of its efficacy. “I have spent time in five different schools in my community,” said Tanzi, “The themes that appeared through all of these hours of conversations have been stark. Learning has taken a back seat to test preparation, the culture of the classroom has changed dramatically, and the quality of education suffers.”
Rounding out the speakers was PSU member Sam Foer who lead the students and their supporters in chants of “High stakes testing is not right! That is why we have to fight!” after telling legislators, “You have the final say: do you support treating students like nothing more than guinea pigs in an experiment, or do you want to put an end to this gamble with our lives? We leave it up to you.”