“More Than a Test Score” Campaign
This year, the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is implementing a new high-stakes testing graduation requirement. Under this policy, students–beginning with this year’s juniors–will need to receive a score of at least “partially proficient” on the NECAP exam in order to graduate from high school.
The Providence Student Union is committed to fighting this misguided and harmful policy for a number of extremely important reasons:
- First, this policy will do nothing to achieve its stated goal of creating higher expectations and ensuring students graduate with the skills they need. At PSU we believe strongly in the need for high expectations, and we know we need to improve our schools–that’s what we are all about. But simply tacking a high-stakes test onto the end of our 12-year long educational career does nothing to improve the quality of our teaching, our learning, our school environments, our curriculum, our extracurricular opportunities, our social support services, or anything else that will meaningfully better our education. Simply put, proponents of this graduation requirement have diagnosed the problem, but have prescribed a “solution” that does nothing to solve the very real issues in our educational system, and instead will create further barriers to our learning experience.
- Second, this policy is discriminatory in its impact, imposing far greater deleterious effects on students of color, low-income students, ELLs, and students with IEPs.
- Third, the punitive effects of this policy will be widespread. In Providence last year, 70 percent of juniors did not score high enough on the NECAP to have graduated. Worse still, 86 percent of students with IEPs and 94% of students with limited English proficiencies did not score high enough to have graduated. Under this policy, thousands of young people will have their futures taken from them. And this is particularly appalling considering the NECAP test was not designed to test individual achievement.
- Fourth, this policy will increase the already-corrosive effects of standardized testing. Teaching to the test and curriculum narrowing will intensify, meaning we will not be learning high-order creative thinking skills or complex reasoning–we will be learning how to fill in a bubble-test. As a result, our motivation and our teachers’ motivation to succeed will be reduced.
- Fifth, there are far better ways to evaluate achievement and ability, such as performance-based assessments and documentation of student work.
To learn more about the harmful effects of this policy, check out this video of PSU’s teach-in on the issue!
How you can help
Over the next year, PSU will be organizing a campaign to convince the new Board of Education to eliminate the use of the NECAP as a graduation requirement. We will continue to engage in a series of direct actions, demonstrations and public education events, and the more students, parents, teachers, officials, concerned citizens and other allies we can work with, the more likely that together we can overcome this unjust policy. If you are interested in helping us win this campaign, please contact us–we would love to have your help!