Groups seek to ensure 'high-stakes testing' moratorium enforced, no diplomas wrongfully denied

Groups seek to ensure 'high-stakes testing' moratorium enforced, no diplomas wrongfully denied

PROVIDENCE - Nine organizations that pushed for the new law imposing a three-year moratorium on "high stakes testing" as a condition of high school graduation have sent an "urgent request" to state Department of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, calling on her to ensure that the law is being implemented by school departments.

In a letter to the commissioner, the groups have asked her to send an advisory to all school district superintendents about the new law and the obligation it imposes on them to ensure that no student has been unlawfully denied a diploma in their district. The letter expresses concern that, because the law was passed after June graduations had already taken place, "some districts may not have taken the necessary steps to rectify those situations where a student might have been initially denied a diploma because of his or her NECAP score. Further, because of language barriers or other issues, there may be some parents of students affected by the law who do not know about the new statute or its ramifications for their child."

Although a recent "field memo" from the commissioner to superintendents references the new law and a consequent phase-out of NECAP assessments next year, it does not call for a review of graduation decisions. The organizations' letter argues that since "the new law has superseded RIDE's regulations, we believe it is incumbent upon RIDE to make sure that this law is appropriately implemented at the local level."

Karen Feldman, executive director of Young Voices, said, "RIDE is responsible for making sure no young person falls through the cracks. It is imperative that school districts give a diploma to every student wrongfully denied a diploma due to the NECAP. They need it so they can have a chance to avoid the life of poverty often linked with a lack of a high school degree.

"This flawed policy has already victimized them enough. It's time to make things right."

Other organizations signing the letter to the commissioner were: The Autism Project, Providence Student Union, ACLU of Rhode Island, R.I. Teachers of English Language Learners,

NAACP Providence Branch, George Wiley Center, Parents Across Rhode Island, and Eastern States Youth to Youth. The letter is available on the ACLU of RI's website: www.riaclu.org.