Diploma reforms under fire
Civil rights organizations and some community groups are ringing alarm bells today about a new diploma system in the works for Rhode Island public schools.
The state board that oversees elementary and secondary schools has been holding a series of hearings on the proposal, which would require high school juniors to reach partial proficiency on standardized state tests starting with the class of 2012. The new rules would also create a tiered diploma system offering honors diplomas for high achieving students.
The ACLU and roughly 10 other groups say the new rules would unfairly penalize low income students, minority students and students with disabilities, who have lower proficiency rates on state tests than other students.
According to the New England Common Assessment Program, the state’s standardized test program, roughly 70 percent of African-American and Latino students in Rhode Island would risk not getting a diploma if the new rules applied to this year’s senior class. Roughly 65 percent of low income students would risk not getting a diploma.
State officials argue that the new graduation requirements are intended to make high school diplomas more meaningful and ensure that students acquire certain basic skills before they graduate from Rhode Island high schools.
The proposal would allow students to re-take state tests as seniors, and they would be allowed to graduate if they show significant progress and complete all other coursework required by their schools.
The last of three public input sessions on the diploma system is scheduled for tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. at the Providence Career and Technical Academy.