The Department of Education “has essentially acknowledged that the NECAP test … is not a useful indicator of a student’s college readiness,” according to the ACLU, which is calling attention to a RIDE policy that allows high school students accepted into college to waive the high stakes test graduation requirement.
A spokesman for the Department of Education, contacted yesterday, did not respond to an email seeking a comment.
“If the whole point of requiring students to get a certain score on the NECAP was allegedly to determine whether they were college-ready, how can RIDE now say that if you are accepted into college, it doesn’t matter what your NECAP score is?,” asked Steve Brown, the executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU. “The whole point of requiring a high stakes test has now been turned upside down, and can now be seen more clearly as the arbitrary, punitive and ultimately meaningless policy that it has always been.”
State Senator Adam Satchell shared the ACLU’s concern and confusion over the apparent policy discrepancy. He said, “Basically they are saying you need this to show us you are ready for college, unless you are ready for college. It kind of baffles me.”
Satchell, who represents West Warwick, said this sort of policy implementation is “punitive for low-income kids.”
He’s introduced a bill this session that would put a five year moratorium on high stakes tests as graduation requirements.
“It’s important that we implement this very slowly,” Satchell said in a phone interview today. “We know there are gaps with the NECAP. If the same gaps exist with the PARC [the test slated to replace the NECAP next year] then we know the tests aren’t the issue.”
He said Massachusetts implemented high stakes test graduation requirements much more slowly than Rhode Island intends to do and Connecticut recently passed a law that will implement high stakes test graduation requirements in 2020.
Here’s the full text of the ACLU press release:
The ACLU of Rhode Island said today that the RI Department of Education has essentially acknowledged that the NECAP test – the high stakes test that it requires students to pass in order to get a high school diploma – is not a useful indicator of a student’s college readiness. It has done so after years of claiming otherwise, said the ACLU, by quietly revising its waiver policies this month to give diplomas to students who do not “pass” the NECAP if they are accepted into a “non-open enrollment, accredited higher education institution” or national community service programs like AmeriCorp or City Year.
ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown said today: “For years, RIDE has been saying that students must demonstrate a certain level of proficiency on the NECAP test in order to show they deserve a diploma and are college-ready. Last year, the Department showed it didn’t really mean what it said when the policy was revised to allow students to qualify for a diploma if they merely showed a certain level of improvement on their NECAP scores. This latest revision, however, completely undermines any semblance of rationale for use of the NECAP as a high stakes test.
“If the whole point of requiring students to get a certain score on the NECAP was allegedly to determine whether they were college-ready, how can RIDE now say that if you are accepted into college, it doesn’t matter what your NECAP score is? The whole point of requiring a high stakes test has now been turned upside down, and can now be seen more clearly as the arbitrary, punitive and ultimately meaningless policy that it has always been.
“For years, civil rights, educational and community groups have been arguing that the NECAP is simply not a useful indicator of a student’s qualifications for a diploma. It is now time for RIDE to clearly and formally acknowledge that fact instead of hiding it by coming up with more and more convoluted exceptions to the testing requirement that swallow the rule. It is nothing short of cruel for the Department to perpetuate the anxiety and stress that this irrational mandate has caused thousands of students and parents. Indeed, we fear for any students who decided not to apply to college this past year because of their NECAP scores. This high stakes testing requirement must be promptly repealed. In the meantime, every high school junior and senior should be made immediately aware of this new waiver policy.”
Providence Student Union member and high school junior Sam Foer added: “This latest waiver does not solve the fact that high-stakes testing still encourages teaching to the test, less-individualized learning, and narrowed curricula. If RIDE is going to undermine their graduation requirement with the waiver process, why did Rhode Island spend all this time, effort, and money?”
Two months ago, the Board of Education, without any public debate, rejected on a split vote a petition signed by seventeen organizations calling for repeal of the high stakes testing mandate.