Congratulations to the Providence Student Union, which exposed the inadequacy of the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) as a high school graduation test. As a result of their activism, the Boston Globe today opposed the use of NECAP for that purpose.

Instead of just protesting or writing letters to the editor or to elected officials, the PSU engaged in political theater. They invited 60 accomplished professionals to “take the test,” a test made up of released math items. And of that group, 60 percent would not have received a high school diploma.

Way to go, Providence students!


Dear Linda,

This just in: The Boston Globe published an Editorial  this morning calling on Rhode Island’s Department of Education to reconsider using the NECAP as a graduation requirement!
You’ve got to read this.


Flunking the test

  APRIL 11, 2013

STARTING THIS spring, Rhode Island high school seniors will have to pass the New England Common Assessment Program to get their diploma. The new requirement is the latest effort by the Rhode Island Department of Education to improve low-performing high schools. But does high-stakes testing ensure the state’s students are properly prepared to succeed in a 21st century workforce? A group of local high school students is raising the question.


The Providence Student Union, a student-led advocacy group, last month organized an event at which 50 prominent Rhode Islanders took a shortened version of the math NECAP. Sixty percent of the test-takers – among them elected officials, attorneys, scientists, engineers, reporters, college professors, and directors of leading nonprofits – failed to score at least “partially proficient,” the standard education officials have set for graduation. Under the new rules, many of those 50 successful individuals would not have been allowed to graduate.


The good news is Rhode Island’s 11th-graders do score slightly better than the adults. In October 2012, 40 percent failed to achieve “partially proficient” for math, and 8 percent fell short in reading. And those who didn’t pass will have another chance to take the test next fall.


The fundamental problem, though, is that the test wasn’t originally designed to be a graduation requirement and isn’t suited for that purpose. Schools need more high standards and accountability, and the NECAP was designed not to evaluate individual students’ proficiency, but to rank the quality of the schools they attend. Unlike tests meant primarily for student assessment, such as the MCAS in Massachusetts, the NECAP expects a certain portion of test-takers to fail. Research suggests that percentage will likely come from low-income, working-class neighborhoods – the students who are least likely to return for a fifth year of high school, even if skipping it means going without a diploma.


Plus, as the adults’ mock exam suggests, the NECAP may not even be testing the right skills. The Rhode Island Department of Education should reconsider its graduation requirement – and not only to salve the embarrassment of so many high-salaried professionals.

Wow — strong words and strong points from The Boston Globe!
More and more community leaders, testing experts, and publications are beginning to join students in questioning this misguided policy. But if we’re going to change this diploma system, we need you to make your voice heard.
Will you take one minute to call Governor Chafee’s office at 401-222-2080 and tell him to repeal the NECAP graduation requirement?
Thanks. We can’t do this without you.
P.S. When you’re done calling the Governor, please take a few more seconds to leave a message for Chairwoman Mancuso at the Board of Education, 401-456-6002!