The results are in.

Most of the adults who took the test would not be able to graduate.

Are we a failed nation of illiterate professionals or are the tests unreasonable?

Here’s a thought: Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, and Arne Duncan should take the test.

This is the press release from the Providence Student Union:


March 19, 2013

CONTACT: Aaron Regunberg | | 847-809-6039 (cell)



Providence, Rhode Island – March 19, 2013 – Members of the student activist group the Providence Student Union (PSU) released the results of this weekend’s “Take the Test” event today. Of the 50 accomplished adults who took a shortened, sample version of the Math NECAP exam, 60% scored at a level that would put them at risk of not graduating under Rhode Island’s new diploma system.

“In total, 50 people—successful elected officials, attorneys, scientists, engineers, reporters, college professors, and directors of leading nonprofits—took a sample version of the Math portion of the New England Common Assessment Program that we put together from released items on RIDE’s website,” said Darren Fleury, a junior at Central High School and a member of PSU. “According to RIDE’s scoring guidelines, 4 of these 50 people would have scored ‘proficient with distinction,’ 7 would have scored ‘proficient,’ 9 would have scored ‘partially proficient,’ and 30 individuals—or 60%—would have scored ‘substantially below proficient,’ meaning they did not get a high enough score to receive a diploma.”

The Providence Student Union’s “Take the Test” event was the latest component of a campaign that students—along with parents and other community members—have been organizing against a new Rhode Island policy that turns the state’s main standardized test, the NECAP, into a make-or-break barrier to graduation.

“My eyes have been opened,” said Teresa Tanzi, a State Representative from Wakefield and a participant in Saturday’s “Take the Test” event. “As one of the many capable and relatively accomplished participants who scored ‘substantially below proficient’ on this exercise, I do believe this points to a problem with our state’s new diploma system. The fact that a majority of very successful adults—nearly all of whom have completed college and many of whom have advanced degrees—cannot meet this requirement should make us reconsider whether a NECAP score, on its own, is an appropriate arbiter for a high school graduation decision.”

“This is a fundamental misuse of this measurement tool,” explained Tom Sgouros, a policy analyst who also took the test. “The original goal of NECAP was to evaluate schools, and, to some extent, students within the schools. In order to make a reliable ranking among schools, you need to ensure that the differences between one school and another are statistically significant. To do that, the statistics demand that you design it to ensure that a significant number of students will flunk. If every student passed this test, they would redesign it. That’s what it means to be a diagnostic tool. To attach high-stakes to such an exam is simply an abuse of the tool, and one that will have real consequences for many young people.”

Priscilla Rivera, a junior at Hope High School and a PSU member, offered additional context to the results. “Of course, it is true that many of these professionals who participated in our event had not been prepared to take the test,” she said. “But our point is, neither have we. For 10, 11, or 12 years we have been taught to different standards. We have not been following a curriculum aligned with this test, and we are trapped in an education system that is failing to give us the education we deserve. If it does not make sense to punish adults for not being prepared to take this particular test, we believe it does not make sense to punish us for not having been effectively taught this material over a period of years. Give us a good education, not a test!”

“We know different people show their knowledge in different ways,” said Dulari Tahbilder, the executive director of Breakthrough Providence. “I did not do very well on that test. But I am more than a single test score, and I think our students are too.”