July 2, 2014 08:33AM
By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI
PROVIDENCE — The use of standardized tests as a high school graduation requirement will be pushed back three years in Rhode Island under legislation that went into law without Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s signature.
The Democratic governor said in a transmittal message to House and Senate leaders Tuesday he believes the postponement will provide teachers and students additional time to transition to “our high expectations for student achievement.”
The legislation prohibits the use of any standardized test, including the New England Common Assessment Program, as a diploma requirement until 2017. This year’s seniors were the first for which the requirement of at least “partial proficiency” on the NECAP was in effect.
Chafee noted the protracted debate in the state — and nationally — on the use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement, saying there is no clear consensus on the right thing to do. The state Board of Education was split by a vote of 7-4 in favor of keeping the requirement in place.
Then the General Assembly stepped in.
Critics of the NECAP say students who are poor, have special needs or are learning English as a second language have been disproportionately affected by the requirement because they haven’t been prepared to pass. In arguing to nix the NECAP requirement, they also said a process for waivers — offered at the discretion of districts’ superintendents — was discriminatory and inconsistent.
“As this bill becomes law, I encourage all stakeholders to continue to work together to ensure that high school graduates are meeting well-reasoned graduation requirements and that remedial measures are instituted to assist students in need of these services,” Chafee wrote in his transmittal message. “During this time of transition, it is important that we maintain the principle of high expectations for students and multiple measures of readiness for every graduating class.”
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said previously she was disappointed by the General Assembly’s action and that she’d continue to work with districts to prepare high-achieving students.
Speaker Nicholas Mattiello had initially been opposed to the NECAP moratorium, saying he didn’t think the delay was needed because of the range of waivers. But he later reconsidered after reading a newspaper story about a Barrington High School senior with disabilities who was denied a diploma because she didn’t meet the NECAP math requirement.
The state is planning a switch to a new standardized test in line with Common Core standards.