Dr. Diane Kern, a well-respected URI education professor, thinks using the NECAP test as a high stakes graduation requirement doesn’t prepare students well for college.
“Higher educators are looking for creative, curious, critical thinkers who will succeed at our institutions, not fill-in-the-bubble students who have achieved partial proficiency on the NECAP,” she said in a statement released today. Her statement comes as the Board of Education plans to begin discussing this issue it monthly meeting, Monday, July 15, 5:30 at Rhode Island College.
She went on:
“As the entire University of Rhode Island Equity Council has publicly stated, instead of using high-stakes test scores to determine college and career readiness, we must employ a research- and evidence-based assessment system that fairly and adequately utilizes multiple measures. Such a system needs to be similar to college and university admissions, in which we examine grades, class rank, results of standardized exams like the SAT, work ethic, multi-disciplinary achievements, evaluations by teachers, and what students have done in life.”
Kern has a Ph. D in education and has been a professor at URI since 2005. Prior to that she was a RIC professor. She is also a certified RI teacher who has taught in Barrington, South Kingstown and Block Island, according to her resume.
Kern joins the litany of locals who have voiced issues with using the NECAP standardized test as a graduation requirement, most recently the General Assembly. The ACLU and groups representing special needs students have said it is a civil liberties violation. Others, such as Tom Sgouros, have made the case that NECAP test isn’t designed to assess individuals. The Providence Student Union has brought national attention to the issue by holding high-profile actions such as zombie protests and an adult-version of the test.
Here’s Kern’s entire press release:
Days before the Board of Education is set to meet, a range of voices from the Rhode Island higher education community and college readiness experts have made a new call for the Board to rethink Rhode Island’s new make-or-break standardized testing graduation requirement, citing the policy’s potentially damaging effects on students’ preparation for college.
Diane Kern, an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Rhode Island, said she is concerned about how the state’s NECAP requirement may affect future populations of students in her classes. “Higher educators are looking for creative, curious, critical thinkers who will succeed at our institutions, not fill-in-the-bubble students who have achieved partial proficiency on the NECAP,” she said. “As the entire University of Rhode Island Equity Council has publicly stated, instead of using high-stakes test scores to determine college and career readiness, we must employ a research- and evidence-based assessment system that fairly and adequately utilizes multiple measures. Such a system needs to be similar to college and university admissions, in which we examine grades, class rank, results of standardized exams like the SAT, work ethic, multi-disciplinary achievements, evaluations by teachers, and what students have done in life.
While dozens of student, parent, community, and other organizations have protested against the new testing requirement – and the General Assembly recently passed a near-unanimous resolution calling on the Board of Education to delay and consider changing the policy – the higher education community has been seen by some as relatively supportive of the regulation.
But this is not the case, according to Earl N. Smith III, a scholar-activist and an alum of URI’s Talent Development Program. “I have been able to achieve tremendous success throughout the course of my 20 year career in higher education; success that I may have never accomplished had my opportunities rested entirely on my test scores. Pursuing higher education is a fundamental freedom, and this NECAP requirement is another obstacle which – like the Black Codes of another era – will disproportionately impact people of African descent, as well as people with learning challenges, thus depriving our higher education institutions of all that these students could bring to them.”
Other experts on college readiness have also begun voicing their concerns about RIDE’s policy. “The Annenberg Institute’s national college readiness work with districts demonstrates that college preparedness depends on a strong set of student supports and services at the classroom, school, and district level,” said Angela Romans, Principal Associate with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. “For RIDE to create a high stakes test requirement without the proper school- and district-based supports places the burden solely on the backs of young people and teachers without holding the system and the broader community accountable. The Department of Education would be wise to take a more balanced approach to accountability for high school graduation that broadens the responsibility for improvement and recognizes that career readiness is measured through multiple outcomes that are weighted equitably based on students’ access to learning.”
Concerns about the NECAP’s accuracy in measuring college readiness were echoed by students like Sol Camanzo, an alum of Cranston East High School who just finished her second year at McDaniel College. “I graduated from high school with honors back before the NECAP was being used as a graduation requirement. Although I did well with the reading and writing portions of the NECAP, I scored below proficient on the math portion,” Sol said. “This did not prevent me from getting my high school diploma, nor did it prevent me from getting accepted to an institution of higher education. Today, I am proud to say that I am a biology major and I am doing well in all of my classes – including all of the math-based courses. My hopes are to one day go to medical school and become a pediatrician. I am living proof that this policy is premised on false assumptions.”
Last month, a coalition of 17 organizations representing youth, parents, the disability community, civil rights activists, college access organizations and other constituencies filed a formal petition with the Board of Education to initiate a public rule-making process to rescind the high-stakes testing graduation requirement. Under the law, the Board has thirty days from the groups’ June 24th filing to respond to the petition, either by denying or it by initiating a public rule-making process.