That amazing, pro-active, brilliant Providence Student Union has challenged Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist to a debate about high-stakes testing with them.

Will Commissioner Gist agree to debate them?

The students thinks it is wrong to use NECAP–the state assessment–as a requirement for graduation. The corporation that created the test agrees with the students that the test was not designed as an exit exam. Gist is sticking to her guns and has the support of the lawyer who recently was appointed to chair the state board of education.

The students know that the failure rate will have a disparate impact on students with disabilities, English language learners, and those who are poor.

Isn’t it odd that high school students know so much more than their titular leaders? Isn’t it impressive that they have such a keen sense of justice, which is not shared by those in charge?

This came to me from the Providence Student Union:

Students will be at one of these podiums.

Will the Commissioner agree to stand at the other?

Dear Diane,

We wanted to make sure you had heard the news – the Providence Student Union (PSU) has challenged Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist to a debate about her Department’s testing policies.

“In the name of open discussion and the free exchange of ideas,” students wrote in a letter to the Commissioner, “we, the members of the Providence Student Union, respectfully request that you participate with us in a public debate regarding Rhode Island’s new high-stakes standardized testing graduation requirement.”

PSU members do not seem nervous about possibly engaging with an accomplished adult communicator like Commissioner Gist. “It’s about the issues,” explains Yvette Gonzalez, a freshman at Mount Pleasant High School. “We know how this policy is actually affecting us every day in the classroom, and we feel confident enough to describe and defend our positions in public. The Commissioner also seems confident about her position, so we are hopeful she will be willing to debate us.”

The public has not yet received an official response from the Commissioner, but we want to give her a little time. After all, what reason could there be to not join students in this important civic exercise?

Of course, organizing an event like this debate will require major time and resources from students and staff. But you can help by making a tax-deductible gift to the Providence Student Union today.

Will you support PSU with a $10 donation?

With your help, students will be able to continue creating the platforms they need to make their voices heard on this and other important issues. Thanks so much for everything.


The PSU Debate Planning Committee (Tim, Jinnelle, Garren, Cauldierre and Yvette)

To learn more about the Providence Student Union, get in contact, or make a donation:

At the Providence Student Union, we organize to build the collective power of high school students across Providence to ensure youth have a real voice in decisions affecting their education.