Lawmakers institute three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing

Lawmakers institute three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing

PROVIDENCE - To give teachers a chance to adjust curricula and properly prepare students to achieve new standards in education, state lawmakers on Friday approved bills to place a temporary hold on high-stakes testing.

The bills, sponsored by Sen. Adam Satchell, a Democrat from West Warwick, and Rep. Gregg Amore, a Democrat from East Providence, state that no standardized assessment can be used to determine a student’s ability to graduate from high school prior to 2017, according to a news release from the Statehouse.

“This legislation does not mean districts won’t use standardized testing, and I want to make that perfectly clear,” said Satchell in a statement. “This allows our school districts to properly match curricula to the new Common Core State Standards and when our students are given a better picture of what to expect in preparation for graduation, then we can move forward with adding an extra layer of requirements. We want our students to reach their highest potential, and that includes raising our educational standards from time to time. This bill does not stand in the way of that. It simply gives us time to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes with the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam that we did with the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program).”

The NECAP was tied to graduation requirements for this year’s graduating class as part of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s efforts to boost college preparedness and raise education standards. Next year, the state’s public schools are set to introduce the PARCC exam, a computer-based standardized test. Satchell said there are a number of districts that do not have the technology or infrastructure to properly implement PARCC.

Amore added the public school system in Rhode Island has made so many transformations in such a short period of time that no one, including students, has been afforded enough time to catch up.

“When a state’s education system goes through a complete upheaval in a matter of just a few years, realistic expectations of our administrators, educators and students need to be set,” said Amore. “That’s not what happened here when RIDE implemented the high-stakes testing policy with a tool that was not intended for such a use. Outside of the practical implications of our legislation, I strongly believe we will improve our ability to retain our most prized education professionals and institute highly effective target remediation. When high-stakes testing finally steps back onto the scene, our students will be better prepared. Our system will never be perfect - nothing ever is. However, the past decade has been overwrought with policy changes, some of which were in direct conflict with each other. Three years of consistency will make a difference for these kids.”

Both legislators added that the policy will prompt comprehensive discussions about placing more support in the classroom for English language earners and other students grappling with learning disabilities, poverty, and other factors that may impede a child’s ability to learn. Upon Gov. Lincoln Chafee signing the change into law, the legislation would require that data obtained from standardized assessments be used to promote school improvement and create better programs to fill learning gaps for both individuals and groups of students. The commissioner of elementary and secondary education would also be required to submit an annual report disaggregating performance by race, poverty, native language and gender.