To the editor:
Whether or not you support the use of the NECAP as a requirement for high school graduation, it’s hard to deny that the manner in which this policy was implemented created a nightmare for students. Districts blame the R.I. Dept. of Education and RIDE blames the districts, but ultimately it’s the students who are paying the price.
Parents, students and educators know firsthand that many students in communities across the state have:
• not been taught much of the material on the NECAP;
• not been provided adequate instructional support or remediation;
• not applied to college because of their scores on the NECAP;
• not applied to college because of confusion or delays related to the requirement.
• dropped out or intend to drop out; and
• been encouraged to drop out — especially those who don’t score well on tests.
For students with disabilities the impact has been even more devastating, as many of these students have been:
• denied accommodations/modifications required by their IEPs (individualized education programs) when taking the NECAP;
• tested on material they have not had an opportunity to learn;
• given insufficient time, supports or accommodations to learn the material on the NECAP;
• taught advanced math concepts when often the real barrier is understanding the how the test is written;
• forced to take developmentally inappropriate remediation at an overwhelming pace;
• denied alternate or multiple measures (other than test scores) to demonstrate their knowledge;
• encouraged to drop out; or
• encouraged to take alternative tests that do not qualify them for diploma.
Only 17 percent of students with disabilities passed the NECAP in the fall of 2012. If only 17 percent of the general student population had passed, the state would have immediately stopped implementation of this policy. Even with 40 percent not passing, the governor and the Board of Education should have at least endeavored to find out why. Instead, they compensated by lowering the standard or granting waivers so that everyone would graduate except for students with disabilities, ELLs and students who can’t afford college. After all, not everyone should be able to earn a diploma, right?
Even with parents, students, educators, and advocacy groups such as The Autism Project, Children’s Policy Coalition, NAACP, R.I. Parent Information Network, ACLU, R.I. Disability Law Center urging suspension of both the policy and the manner of its implementation, nothing has been done to prevent the negative impact this policy has had and will continue to have on these students.
Is denying diplomas and encouraging drop outs truly the path to to higher standards?
While parents and advocacy groups have been voicing serious concerns over NECAP, the new PARCC tests, data privacy, the Common Core State Standards, fairness for students with disabilities or equal opportunities for students in poverty, their concerns are being completely ignored.
Parents want decision makers to treat all children fairly. Elected officials — and those seeking elected office — need to start listening. If greatness is measured by how the weakest members of society are treated, then Rhode Island needs to do better by our children.
Jean Ann Guliano