The Providence Student Union thought it was wrong that a single high-stakes exam should determine whether they graduate.

To prove their point, they invited legislators, educators, and community leaders to take the test. The test was made up of released items. The results will be released later this week.

Hats off to the brave adults who took the risk.

Here is the students’ press release:

March 16, 2013

CONTACT: Aaron Regunberg | Aaron@ProvidenceStudentUnion.org | 847-809-6039 (cell)

STUDENTS INVITE LEADERS, POLICY MAKERS TO “TAKE THE TEST” –

WOULD THEY GRADUATE UNDER NEW NECAP POLICY?

Providence, Rhode Island – March 16, 2013 – Youth in Providence turned the testing tables today with an event designed to lend a deeper perspective to the debate over Rhode Island’s new high-stakes NECAP diploma system. Members of the Providence Student Union (PSU), a high school student advocacy group, administered a shortened version of the test that is currently being used as a make-or-break graduation requirement for the Class of 2014 to over forty elected officials, nonprofit directors, attorneys, and other community leaders.

“We expect this event to prove that people are more than test scores,” said Leexammarie Nieves, a sophomore at Central High School and a member of PSU. “We also want these community leaders to get a sense of what students are going through with this new policy.”

The adults sat at tables in the basement of the Knight Memorial Library in Providence, no. 2 pencils in hand, as students passed out the test, read the official directions, and proctored the exam. “This is a shortened version of the Math NECAP,” explained Tamargejae Paris, a junior at Hope High School at the beginning of the event.

“We are focusing on the math portion because that is the test that is putting the overwhelming majority of students at risk of not graduating. The test we are using was put together from the items RIDE releases, and we did our best to estimate the same ratios of each kind of question as is used on the real NECAP. So, though it is not a statistically valid test, we believe it is a good general representation of the test Rhode Island juniors are required to take.”

The participating adults were there for numerous reasons. Teresa Tanzi, a State Representative from Wakefield, said before beginning her test, “I’m here because I think this is an important exploration. I’ve heard people say that adults taking the test isn’t a fair representation, because we have all been out of school for a long time.

But if this is a test that accomplished adults cannot perform well on, then exactly what is NECAP testing? The truth is, this is a test that was designed as a diagnostic tool to measure large populations – where many are expected to fail – not to make these high-stakes decisions for individual students.
Having said that, however, I am here to do as well as I can and really see what it is we’re asking of students.”

Ken Fish, a former Director of Middle School and High School Reform at RIDE, shook his head when asked how he think he did. “I doubt that I passed the Math test, but those skills have never been relevant in my life or in a successful career managing multimillion dollar budgets. I have other compensating abilities, just as kids do. But students are trapped in an unfair and rigid system that negates their strengths, ignores their accomplishments, and brands them a failure…because of one test! This is outrageous. I think it’s time for the members of the Board of Education to take this test themselves, and then to change the NECAP graduation policy.”

State Senator Adam Satchell agreed. “We’re trying to teach students twenty-first century skills—how to speak, how to use technology. That’s not what this test measures,” he said. “It’s not an accurate measurement of our students.”

Cauldierre McKay, a junior at Classical High School, summed up the spirit of the event when he told the crowd, “We will release your scores in the following week. However you may have scored, we are willing to hypothesize that your score will not be a meaningful representation of all of your academic and real world value and success. This room is filled with accomplished individuals –there are elected officials who are charged with representing thousands of their fellow citizens; nonprofit directors who have created organizations that help countless people every day; brilliant lawyers; even some people that create education policy for Rhode island students. How can you measure all of that success by a single, arbitrary test? You can’t.”

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