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Oh, those graduation requirements!

February 8, 2012

Starting in 2014, Rhode Island will require a score of “partially proficient” or better on standardized state tests to graduate from high school. The rule was originally supposed to take effect last year but state officials delayed it because many too many schools weren’t ready. Now some community groups and state lawmakers are looking to block the requirement.

Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) and Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) say they will introduce a bill this week to outlaw test scores as a graduation requirement. The bill would also call for parental notification if a student is scoring significantly below the bar.

“We don’t want educators to teach to the test,’” Representative Naughton said in an announcement about the bill. “We want them to use the test as a tool for achievement.”

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is one of a dozen organizations backing the bill. Executive Director Steve Brown says he has serious concerns about what will happen when the new requirements take effect in 2014.

“2014 is right around the corner,” Brown said. “We’ll be in the same place we were in last year with supports not in place in the schools and a huge number of students at risk for not getting a diploma.”

Just how many students might not graduate? Well, State education officials will be releasing the latest round of test score data later this week. But they say students will have opportunities to re-take the tests, and they would still be able to graduate even if they don’t meet the proficiency bar, as long as they make significant progress.

The ACLU’s Steve Brown says that will not be enough to help man y students, especially low-income, minority and special education students who tend to have lower scores on state tests.

“The re-testing takes place too late, and it would be the middle of their senior year before students find out their scores, so that doesn’t leave very much time for the school to intervene to get their scores up” Brown said. “It’s not enough of a safety valve.”

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