Many of you who are dialed in to education in Rhode Island are already closely following and participating in the statewide discussion about the proposal to create a high school graduation system that will use the NECAP (the New England Common Assessment Program, a system of standardized testing shared by Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire) as a gatekeeper starting in 2012. The Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education is considering this proposal now, and if you don't do anything else, please consider attending the Regents' hearing that's being held tomorrow, Tuesday, January 25, 5:00pm at Providence Career & Technical Academy, 91 Fricker Street, to hear what those that are able to be there have to say on the issue. Their voices will be many and mighty. And I will be bummed out, as it looks like circumstances are conspiring to prevent me from being there.
This change, being described as a "three-tier system," will alter graduation regulations passed in 2008--that is, graduation regulations that most current high school students, teachers, administrators, and families have held as their expectations. A significant percentage of all current 11th graders suddenly face the real prospect that they will below the third tier and therefore be denied a diploma if they cannot pass the NECAP's math and English tests with at least partial proficiency. (For an explanation of the factors that determine the three proposed diploma levels, see this ProJo article--there's a good explanation midway through.)
The central concern that many educators and others have voiced at Regents' meetings and hearings held earlier this month is that NECAP wasn't designed for this use. As the Rhode Island Department of Education explains, the NECAP is in place to provide "information to school administrators, teachers, and parents to help them make informed decisions about student instructional needs." The NECAP a significant small slice, and has real meaning, but it was not intended to be a defining measure of graduation.
There's been a huge reaction to the proposal, and I suggest you check out some of what's available to help you think through the issue. Five highlights below:
1. "Future of Rhode Island Students" vividly describes what the proposed changes will mean for many students who, as of now, are successfully on their way toward graduation:
Was that not great? "Future of Rhode Island Students" was made by Mike McCarthy, a second-year student at College Unbound. GoLocalProv ran a story on McCarthy and his motivation for making the video, which is a powerful example of what students can do, an example of the sort of exhibition of mastery that our state's current graduation policy clearly values.
2. Here's a powerful statement from last week's hearing in South Kingston from a Providence teacher identified as Mary (those in the know, please send me more info about Mary so I can properly credit her).
3. The ProJo has been covering this issue--here's the latest, and here's a breakdown of statewide NECAP scores that demonstrates the impact statewide on those students current testing below proficient.
4. Facebook is doing its part to organize those who want to express concern through the "This Is Not the Test, This Is Not the Time" group.
5. And for a useful demonstration on how it's possible to express concern about the hasty implementation of this policy while still expressing support for the overall direction of Rhode Island education under Commissioner Deborah Gist, check out this GoLocalProvidence interview with state rep/House Speaker Gordon Fox.
Please attend tomorrow night's hearing if you can, and please take some time to determine for yourself if you think this is the best move for our state.