September 2, 2014
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My take on the news
Standardized tests all add up
Lonnie Barham

DOYLE AND INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL SPORT: Pundits are famous for using the phrase, “This is a teachable moment.” In this case, the incident causing the teachable moment is the misuse and likely theft of taxpayer funds by Daniel E. Doyle Jr., founder of the Institute for International Sport at URI. Who are the “students” for this teachable moment? The General Assembly and the voters. And what is the “lesson?” Such grants should be abolished. The evidence: Doyle’s inability to account for $400,000 of a $573,000 legislative grant, only the latest in $7.3 million in grants the General Assembly generously handed over to Doyle with no oversight on its spending. In addition to information pointing to fraud, forgery and other criminal acts, it has come to light that Doyle used grant money to pay for his daughter’s college tuition and for his credit card bills. Surely this was not what the House Speaker and the Senate President intended when they handed over our money with no process to ensure it was spent as requested. How many other organizations have spent the “Speaker’s and President’s grant money” in such a cavalier fashion? Most Rhode Islanders are not aware this money is doled out solely on the authority of the House Speaker and Senate President, not by the vote of the entire legislative body, and is reportedly used primarily to “buy” legislators’ votes. We can’t afford to provide the Speaker and Senate President with their own, private political action funds. The program must end!

STANDARDIZED TESTING: Here’s a quick test for the voters and legislators of Rhode Island: Which job requires math skills? A. Engineer, B. Nurse, C. Carpenter, D. McDonald’s cashier, E. All of the above. If you answered E – all of the above, you passed. Congratulations! You know math is required in almost all jobs and you can’t possibly support a bill before the General Assembly that would prohibit the use of standardized tests to determine whether a high school senior has developed the math skills required for graduation and entry into our workforce. Those who oppose the tests as the final hurdle students must cross before award of a diploma presumably would also be in favor of the DMV issuing driver’s licenses to youngsters without requiring a demonstration of driving skills. If we’re willing to release uneducated students into the workforce, why not usher unqualified drivers onto our highways?

SOCIAL PROMOTIONS: The need for standardized testing is the result of social promotions in our public schools. A high school senior who testified before the General Assembly on the standardized testing issue reported that she had worked hard for 12 years and had passed every grade; yet she scored in the bottom 10 percent in math on the standardized test as a high school junior. How can students easily pass every grade throughout middle and high school but still not have attained math skills sufficient to pass a test that requires little better than elementary school skills? It’s the result of social promotions, the process that keeps students advancing from grade to grade without having learned the minimum expected for the grades they are leaving. Social promotions are expected in elementary schools since we shouldn’t have 11- and 12-year-olds sharing classrooms with 5- and 6-year-old first graders. However, social promotions must stop in middle and high schools. Students must remain in their respective grades until they master the knowledge and skills prescribed by the curriculum for those grades. Until then, standardized testing before graduation is the only way to ensure our workforce is not inundated with students totally unprepared for successful employment.

RI ABORTION OVERREACH: A bill has been introduced in the General Assembly that would require doctors to conduct ultrasound tests for pregnant women seeking abortions, display the images, and describe the images to the women before conducting abortion procedures. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are legal in the U.S. Since abortion is illegal in most cases after the fetus has reached viability, the job of state legislatures is to decide at what stage of development a fetus is viable, i.e., when it would survive if born at that stage. Rhode Island law defines viability as “…an unborn child whose heart is beating, who is experiencing electronically-measured brain waves, who is discernibly moving, and who is so far developed and matured as to be capable of surviving the trauma of birth with the aid of usual medical care and facilities available in this state.” Our legislature has already done its job. It is now up to doctors to determine whether a fetus has reached that stage and whether a requested abortion is time-appropriate. The U.S. Supreme Court has said, “…states can impose only those regulations reasonably related to protection of women’s health. Otherwise state interference into the practice of medicine is inappropriate and ultimately harmful to the patient.” The bill before our General Assembly goes beyond what is reasonable and clearly delves into the medical province that should remain between a doctor and the patient.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Warwick residents should be incensed! Senators McCaffrey and Walaska both voted to allow an absolutely awful bill to advance in the state Senate. The bill would allow 8,000 unionized state employees to run for public office and, if elected, vote on measures that would determine their own pay and benefits. Talk about allowing the fox to guard the chicken house! This bill represents an attempt to legalize a gross conflict of interest that would be terribly destructive to taxpayers’ wallets.


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