What I saw at the hearing tonight was at the same time one of the most beautiful and the most frustrating spectacles I've experienced in a long time. On the one hand, it was absolutely inspiring to see so many different Rhode Islanders come together to fight for the type of education system they believed in. The PCTA auditorium was completely packed--there were students, parents, teachers, administrators, concerned citizens, black and white and brown, all protesting with one voice. That in itself should be pretty powerful evidence; one speaker said that he had never seen such a consensus, that he was there fighting next to people he had never agreed with before. And of course, it was particularly powerful to hear so many students committed enough to their education to come out on a freezing night like tonight to speak truth to power.Thanks, Aaron (and happy birthday!).
But as beautiful as the protest was, it was also immensely frustrating, because I had seen it all before. This was the third such hearing, not counting the initial mass protest in Narragansett at the beginning of the month. And none of these outpourings of anger, none of the valid and rationally articulated criticism had seemed to have any effect on any of the decision-makers. I was at the Regents' work session last Thursday, and listened as the Commissioner told the Board that nothing any of these different stakeholders had been saying was valid because it was all based on a belief that minority students are not able to achieve.
This shockingly ignorant statement allows these people to dismiss all of the arguments that students, parents, and educators are making--that tying graduation to a single test is horrifying; that even if it weren't horrifying in general, the NECAP is a horrifyingly bad test to use as it was designed specifically to not be used to test individual achievement; and that creating a tiered diploma system is inequality incarnate.
That's what everyone was saying. I just don't think the Regents particularly heard.
The other big news story from last night's hearing--the first, as Aaron reported, was the powerful presence of young people, parents, and concerned citizens speaking out--was Providence Public Schools Superintendent Tom Brady's statement opposing the imposition of NECAP partial proficiency as a graduation requirement. Click here for Brady's entire testimony (in PDF form); here's a part:
I would also like to address the proposed proficiency measures for high school graduation and the dire consequences for many Providence students who are currently in their junior year. Our current graduation policy was written to comply with RIDE’s 2008 Regulations Guidance which clearly states “that districts will evaluate the results of the state assessments in those areas in conjunction with the other components of the proficiency...” RIDE staff on more than one occasion made public comments confirming that the NECAP was only one component of this conjunctive system, and that failure to achieve partial proficiency would not result in a failure to graduate.The ProJo's story on the hearing, "Students say diploma plan is unfair," is here.
With this mid-stream change from what has been consistently communicated by RIDE, students in the class of 2012 are at-risk of not graduating and would be afforded limited opportunity to improve. While we are already implementing intensive interventions and supports to continually improve student achievement, there is not sufficient time, resources and direction from RIDE to create a comprehensive, personalized support system to ensure the type of growth students will need to graduate. Also of note, is that Rhode Island, unlike other states, can only administer its standardized assessment once per year, affording students only one “re-take.”
P.P.S.: And now, in news just delivered in a Facebook post from Mayor Angel Taveras, no school tomorrow. Snow day. Sleep in, kids!