To the Editor:
I am sending this letter to several leaders in the community and publishers, as I cannot just stand by any longer and watch the self-esteem of 4,000 of our children falling exponentially as this NECAP [New England Common Assessments Program] political drama is slated to ruin the senior year of high school for so many.
I have been reading articles on a daily basis on the NECAP graduation requirement. Rather than become desensitized, I am becoming more and more outraged at the behavior of Commissioner [Deborah] Gist. Webster’s Dictionary defines a dictator as: “A tyrant, one who dictates, who has absolute authority.” Our public school system for Rhode Island has now become a dictatorship: “Absolute or despotic power or control” – if you need examples, check Hitler, Stalin and Castro. And in this dictatorship 4,000 of our children are being used as collateral damage in her personal “race to the top.”
I am not addressing this letter to the dictator, because in the face of all reason, common sense, valid issues brought by students, parents educators and administrators on using one test as a graduation requirement she steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the injustice and poor reliability of this test to measure our students’ success. When courageous adults took the NECAP test last week and failed at a rate of 60 percent, her reaction was a temper tantrum and name calling reminiscent of a 5-year-old.
I received my child’s NECAP results two weeks ago, along with a letter requesting my attendance at a local high school, and was instructed to bring my child’s NECAP scores. My child, along with too many others to be a coincidence, missed the math portion by one point. My child is on the Honor Roll every quarter, and has taken Algebra 1 in 9th grade and Geometry in 10th grade, and this year Algebra 2. My child’s grades have consistently been all A’s in other subjects and a solid B in math. My child often spends hours a night on homework.
At the meeting, about a dozen administrators were announced. Then we got a handout and a 5-minute slideshow of the same handout outlining the plans being made for our children. We were then told that we weren’t there for “commissioner bashing!” At no time in this meeting did anyone ask to see or discuss the results we brought with us. After the 5-minute slideshow, we were told that we could come up to the front of the cafeteria and ask questions. Many parents and students had questions. All questions were valid, although the responses were not – we received two hours of empty platitudes. It was especially heartbreaking to hear the questions of the students who, according to this new policy, are “at risk for not getting a high school diploma in 2014.”
Some of the questions:
- Why weren’t our students being prepared in the correct type of math classes if this was known for the past two years?
- Isn’t it true that after penalizing this one class of 2014 that the NECAP test will no longer be used?
- How are the students supposed to juggle a full load of classes, e-portfolio and the extremely time-consuming senior project and still have NECAP help?
- If the students must take the test again in October, why do they have to wait three months until January to get the results?
- Doesn’t anyone care about the self-esteem and well-being of these children?
- Who can we contact in September to make sure that we can follow our children’s progress?
I even spoke with a parent of a student of special needs at my table who was shocked to learn from her child’s high school that the student would get a “certificate,” not a diploma.
WHAT WE WERE TOLD AS FACT:
1. They will take away the elective courses already selected by our children, which often are career-related, to place our students in a remedial math class (they called it “transitional math”) in September. (There is no doubt this will stigmatize them in front of the whole school.) They have to retake the NECAP in October. They will have to remain in that remedial math class until at least January. Our kids will have to wait three months to see if they passed. I find this completely callous and unacceptable – why can’t the tests be graded in one week?
2. Vocational/technical students that are in career placement courses were never required to take higher math classes, even though the administrators have known for two years that this one test would be a major stumbling block.
3. When challenged that the NECAP should not be used in this way, we were told: “It’s not going away and we just have to try to help the children the best way that we can, regardless of whether we agree with it or not!” I, for one, am sick to death of this lame excuse; the only one who seems to agree with Dictator Gist is her new parrot, Eva Mancuso.
4. When confronted by a parent and a student, the speaker at the meeting admitted that after our 4,000 students retake the NECAP test in 2014, this test will no longer be used at all! A new test will be used, however, there was no information to compare them.
It is a fact that the NECAP was designed as a rating system. It was never designed as a high stakes test. It was never designed or intended to be forced on any students as a graduation requirement.
Many parents would out in disgust. When a person of authority that is charged with the welfare of our children refuses to face facts and will not ever admit that they erred, that person should be removed from their position for abuse of power.
Thank you so very much to the 50 adults who were courageous enough to take the NECAP test, especially for the candor of statistician Tom Sourgos (Providence Journal 3/20/13), who stated, “NECAP was never designed to measure students’ mastery of math. It was created to rank students, so they left out the question that most students could have answered.”
So for our children, teachers, parents and educators, I still hold out hope that reason will prevail. If it does not, the dropout rate next year will be devastating. How would that look on the dictator’s record? The fact that one person’s actions could be so detrimental to the students that she claims to want to help is a travesty. And by the way, Governor Chafee seems awfully quiet about this.