ACLU: Dept of Ed Admits NECAP Does Not Measure College Readiness

Friday, January 10, 2014


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The ACLU of Rhode Island claims that the RI Department of Education has acknowledged that the NECAP test – the high stakes test that it requires students to pass in order to get a high school diploma – is not a useful indicator of a student’s college readiness.

The Department has done so after years of claiming otherwise, said the ACLU, by quietly revising its waiver policies this month to give diplomas to students who do not “pass” the NECAP if they are accepted into a “non-open enrollment, accredited higher education institution” or national community service programs like AmeriCorp or City Year.

ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown said today, “For years, RIDE has been saying that students must demonstrate a certain level of proficiency on the NECAP test in order to show they deserve a diploma and are college-ready. Last year, the Department showed it didn’t really mean what it said when the policy was revised to allow students to qualify for a diploma if they merely showed a certain level of improvement on their NECAP scores. This latest revision, however, completely undermines any semblance of rationale for use of the NECAP as a high stakes test."

“If the whole point of requiring students to get a certain score on the NECAP was allegedly to determine whether they were college-ready, how can RIDE now say that if you are accepted into college, it doesn’t matter what your NECAP score is? The whole point of requiring a high stakes test has now been turned upside down, and can now be seen more clearly as the arbitrary, punitive and ultimately meaningless policy that it has always been."

“For years, civil rights, educational and community groups have been arguing that the NECAP is simply not a useful indicator of a student’s qualifications for a diploma. It is now time for RIDE to clearly and formally acknowledge that fact instead of hiding it by coming up with more and more convoluted exceptions to the testing requirement that swallow the rule. It is nothing short of cruel for the Department to perpetuate the anxiety and stress that this irrational mandate has caused thousands of students and parents. Indeed, we fear for any students who decided not to apply to college this past year because of their NECAP scores. This high stakes testing requirement must be promptly repealed. In the meantime, every high school junior and senior should be made immediately aware of this new waiver policy.”

Providence Student Union member and high school junior Sam Foer added: "This latest waiver does not solve the fact that high-stakes testing still encourages teaching to the test, less-individualized learning, and narrowed curricula," said Providence Student Union member and high school junior Sam Foer. "If RIDE is going to undermine their graduation requirement with the waiver process, why did Rhode Island spend all this time, effort, and money?"

Two months ago, the Board of Education rejected, on a split vote, a petition signed by seventeen organizations calling for repeal of the high stakes testing mandate.


Related Slideshow: 13 Biggest Stories of 2013

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38 Studios Defendants Fight Back

In a blistering response to the State of Rhode Island's lawsuit over 38 Studios default on $75 million in state funding, the defendants led by former Red Sox great Curt Schilling, then-Economic Development Corporation Director Keith Stokes, and prominent Providence law firm Adler Pollock & Sheehan denied the charges in October, attacked the State's suit -- and blamed Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Read the story here.

See the full documents here.

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Race to the Top Money

In August, GoLocal reported that half of the $19.1 million of funds spent so far for the Race to the Top—the competitive federal grant program meant to spur innovative education reform and boost student achievement—had gone to local school districts in Rhode Island, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

About $9.5 million of the funds had flowed into local districts by June 2012, according to the latest available federal data at the time. The second largest expenditure, according to the breakdown, was $6.8 million for contractors, constituting more than a third of the total.

Read the story here.

In October, GoLocal then reported who was getting the most – and the least – Race to the Top money. 

More than half of all school districts were seeing between $100,000 and $500,000 of those funds while top recipients are netting several million. Those receiving the most were the state’s most urbanized districts, including Woonsocket, Pawtucket, and Providence. In all, about $44 million out of the $75 million had been set aside for local districts and schools at the time of reporting. 

Read that story here.

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Pool Closings – and Providence Reactions

Tensions flared this summer when temperatures in the city rose into the 90s, and kids in the city where pools used to be were wishing they were still there -- both for cooling off, and staying safe.

Shay Rivera, a supervisor at the Davey Lopes Recreation Center, where the pool was closed this summer, told GoLocal,  "The teens will roll up in little packs on bikes. They'll find out the pool's not open and they'll take off. We're not stupid, we know what's going on. They're going to do something."

The pool controversies of 2013 landed a spot on GoLocal's" target="_blank"> list of biggest blunders for the year – but was also one of the year's biggest stories, too. 

Read one of the original coverage pieces here: Providence Youth Outraged at Pool Closings.

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Caprio Running Again

Caprio's announcement that he would be seeking a return to the General Treasurer's post in 2014 was one of 2013's biggest stories.  

A GoLocal story on April 19 outlined the performance of Caprio's track record as General Treasurer, including the fact that Rhode Island paid among the lowest pension fund investment management fees in the country in 2010 under Frank Caprio's direction, according to a report issued by the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

Caprio was then Managing Director of the Providence offices of Chatham Capital, an Atlanta-based Venture Capital & Private Equity firm. Caprio served in elected office for 20 years including his term as General Treasurer of State of Rhode Island (2006-2010). 

Following the development, political pundits weighed in on Caprio's chances in 2014. Read the story here.

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Return of Dean Starkman

In July, GoLocal24, the rapidly growing digital media business delivering local news and information to midsized markets, named Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Dean Starkman as a contributor and editor-at-large.  

Starkman helped lead The Providence Journal to the Pulitzer Prize for Investigations in 1994, which was then followed by work at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter and as an editor and writer at Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), 

"GoLocal is an exciting addition to the news ecosystem -- an ambitious net plus to journalism resources. It produces stories that otherwise would never be told and adds crucial coverage to important beats, especially the State House, at a time when legacy news organizations, including my longtime former paper, the still much-esteemed ProJo, have suffered from the great digital disruption engulfing all media," Starkman told GoLocal. 

And so Starkman returned -- but this time to digital media. Read the big announcement here.

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Most and Least Diverse High Schools

What were Rhode Island's most—and least—diverse high schools in 2013? GoLocal's rankings this year had the answer.

Diversity continued to be one of education's most talked-about topics--how well are high school students prepared for a complex, racially and ethnically diverse society? How diverse, really, are the hallways and classrooms of each public and charter high school in the state?

Utilizing data filed by each school with the Institute for Education Science's National Center for Education Statistics, GoLocal researchers assessed each RI public and charter high school's overall racial balance (for more on the methodology, go here.) The more balanced a school's enrollment was across all race categories as named by the NCES, the higher it ranked. 

See how RI's schools ranked here.

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Restaurant Health Code Violations

In case you missed it – although that would be rather hard, given it was one of the best-read GoLocal stories all year – the Rhode Island Department of Health inspected nearly 60 full-service restaurants in the greater Providence area over the last year, and two establishments were found to have exceeded 30 violations in just one inspection each.

Full-service restaurants comprise just one of over 30 categories of establishments the Department of Health inspects, which includes schools, hospitals, assisted living facilities, colleges, pharmacies, and liquor stores, among others.   

Here it is – 25 Providence Restaurants with the Highest Number of Health Violations.

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New England College Super Rankings

GoLocalProv's 2nd Annual Super Ranking of the Top New England Colleges 2013 not only rendered a fresh and compelling snapshot of the 86 best colleges in the region, but also showed a variety of interesting moves among the schools since the previous year's ranking.  

Read the story here.

To rank New England's colleges and universities in its super ranking, GoLocal looked to quantify a well-rounded snapshot of each college and university in New England. To do so, GoLocal utilized a combination of rankings derived from national sources, including US News & World Report, the Princeton Review, Forbes Magazine, and Washington Monthly, as well as Inside College, the Daily Beast, and College Prowler.

Researchers captured rankings from the previous two years that were available on each site, noting specific rankings where applicable as well as letter grades on some sites (College Prowler) and yes or no mentions in other venues (Inside College). These rankings, grades and mentions were translated into numerical values based on GoLocal's proprietary formula.

To see how all 86 Top New England Colleges 2013 ranked, go here.

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Siedle Pension Report

One of the biggest stories of 2013 was when high profile Forbes columnist Edward Siedle, along with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced they would be unveiling the findings of a months-long investigation into the Rhode Island pension system.

"I think Rhode Island taxpayers will be blown away by these findings, if they understand what's going on, and I think I've put it in language that they can," said Siedle. "This is a shot across the bow of the hedge fund takeover of public pension funds across the country, which has been going on for close to ten years now."

Read that article here.

Siedle unveiled a 100 plus page report that called for a federal investigation regarding a number of issues relating the "withholding of material information and misrepresentations regarding state pension costs, as opposed to a lack of knowledge about the exponential growth and magnitude of the fees (tied to Wall Street Hedge Funds)." 

See the report here.

Specifically, Siedle says that the SEC should "investigate ERSRI’s failure to disclose skyrocketing investment expenses, questions surrounding ERSRI’s Point Judith venture investment, and ERSRI investment consultant conflicts (and) payments from money managers."

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Rhode Island's Top Hospitals 

What are the best hospitals in New England--when it comes to what patients think? Traditionally, hospitals are rated and ranked on a combination of sound technical care, adequate resources, and impressive statistics.  But an increasing emphasis is being placed on perhaps one of the more important measures: the patient’s perspective.  

With that in mind, GoLocal sifted through and analyzed the results from a government-sponsored survey of more than 50,000 patients in 176 hospitals in New England, and emerged with the first-ever patient-based ranking of the region’s top hospitals in January." target="_blank">To see what those results were, go here.

Of course, U.S. News and World Report offered up their own rankings as well, later in the summer. Here's how RI hospitals fared then.

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Clay Pell for Governor

Clay Pell, the grandson of Senator Claiborne Pell, whose legacy includes the Pell Grant, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Pell IV appears to be following in his grandfather's footsteps in both civil -- and military -- service.

In October, GoLocal broke the development that Pell was seriously considering a run for Governor in Rhode Island in 2014.  

"The possibility of Clay Pell entering the Democratic gubernatorial primary raises more questions for me than I have answers for. Certainly the Pell name has a great deal of political cachet in Rhode Island, but the Pell name hasn't been on a ballot since 1990 -- a political generation ago," said Jennifer Duffy with the Cook Political Report.  

One of the biggest stories of 2013 will only get bigger in 2014. Read the story here.

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Rhode Island's Top High Schools

GoLocalProv's Fourth Annual "Top High Schools in Rhode Island" 2013 ranking crunched thousands of pieces of data from RI's 49 public, charter and technical schools statewide to reveal how our communities' schools provide for their students. 

With school quality a cornerstone of real estate values and a crucial element of civic pride, this quantitative analysis of each school provides the only comprehensive view of the secondary school educational landscape in Rhode Island.

One of GoLocal's most popular stories, year in, year out, has been Top High Schools. See who ranked where in 2013 here.

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Most Rich and Influential Rhode Islanders

Since GoLocalProv was launched in 2010, we have developed a number of comprehensive annual rankings – Top High Schools, Best Communities, and New England College Super Rankings. This year, we were able to develop a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of wealth and economic influence in Rhode Island.

GoLocalProv teamed with WealthEngine — the leading provider of sophisticated wealth identification and prospect research solutions -- to put together the first-ever list of the rich and powerful in Rhode Island.

In October, GoLocal unveiled its comprehensive ranking of those Rhode Islanders that have the greatest wealth coupled with the greatest influence in our state, and beyond.

If you somehow missed it is: Rhode Island’s 50 Richest and Most Influential.


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