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Honor Roll Student Criticizes Testing Policy After Failing NECAPs

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


An honor roll student from Coventry High School junior may not be able to graduate thanks to the RIDE's testing policy.

Samantha Gobin is a typical high school student.

A junior at Coventry High School, Gobin is a member of both of her school’s choruses, performed in the musical Rent and plays softball in the summer.

She’s also a strong scholar, having achieved high honors at her school in both quarters thus far this year, but you’d never know that because, as it stands right now, she’s not going to graduate with her classmates next spring.

Like thousands of other students in Rhode Island, Gobin failed the math portion of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) last fall and now the Coventry junior is joining the list of individuals calling the Rhode Island Department of Education’s mandate that students prove they’re “partially proficient” on the exams in order to graduate “unfair.”

That list includes the Providence City Council, whose education committee introduced a resolution last night asking RIDE to reconsider its policy, and members of the Providence Student Union, who are set to release the results of last weekend’s “Take the Test” event this afternoon at 4 p.m. at the State House.

For Gobin, who said she only failed the exam “by one point,” the results of the test have weighed heavily on her mind since they were released last month.

She is not alone.

Feeling Unprepared

“I had two massive freak-outs because I’ve worked my entire life so far to get my high school diploma,” Gobin said. “To have that ripped away is kind of terrifying because without a high school diploma, I won’t have a solid lifestyle in the future.”

In the past week, the test scores have been the subject of widespread pushback from students who feel the exams were never meant to be a true determinant of a student’s ability to perform academically and who have repeatedly called for RIDE Commissioner Deborah Gist to reverse the mandate before upwards of four thousand students are told they can not receive a diploma next spring.

“It’s absolutely frustrating because it’s a test you take your junior year,” Gobin said. “It’s not like a test you take your senior year and I only failed it by one point so it’s basically that one point that’s deciding if I graduate or not and that’s the most frustrating part about it.”

Gobin says her school never prepared her for most of the material on the NECAP exam.

“We had a math packet in the summertime to go over and it wasn’t counted as a test or a quiz, it was an optional thing that you had to do,” she said. “I did it but on that little packet, I didn’t understand any of it. There was nothing about Algebra on the packet, there was only stuff about Geometry and there wasn’t anything you had to solve, it was all multiple choice questions.”

Gobin says her school went over the packet on the second day of class and then shifted its focus to Algebra II exclusively. When she took the test, she said, it included trigonometry and other subjects that her class is just getting to now, five months after the NECAPs were administered.

“I studied for it,” Gobin said. “I’ve been stressing about it since my freshman year.”

All About Timing

Florence Gobin DuPerry, Samantha’s mom, says her biggest problem isn’t that her daughter has to re-take the test, it’s that her daughter has to wait until January to do so.

“I think that is obscene,” she said. “At that point we will be applying for applications for college, we will be looking at financial aid, none of which I can do with any concrete ability because I won’t know if she’s going to be able to graduate. My daughter is a phenomenal student and all-around good kid. She’s in all the chorus classes and music and sports and whatnot and this one test is going to hold her back from graduating.”

Gist, who has seemingly refused to buckle under the pressure of public outcry against the NECAP tests, has reiterated her point that the tests are necessary measures of academic progress in recent weeks.

“It is essential that our graduates have at least some level of skill in mathematics if they are to be ready for college and challenging careers,” she said. “For too many years, we have passed these students along, and too many graduates have found doors closed to them when they seek employment or further education. We will no longer turn our backs on these students.

"With hard work, good instruction, and the necessary support, all students can improve their knowledge and skills. Let’s stop arguing about the test and focus on what really matters: working together to get our students where they need to be for success.”

Not A Very Appealing Process

RIDE has indicated that students like Gobin have plenty of chances to make up for one bad testing day.

“Students who score substantially below proficient on the NECAP assessment in reading or mathematics will take the assessment again in their senior year – twice if necessary,” RIDE spokesman Elliot Krieger said yesterday. “If they improve their score significantly, they have met this requirement – even if they still score substantially below proficient. Students may also submit the results from another approved test to meet this requirement.”

Krieger added that student’s can also appeal “any decision throughout the process.”

“In the rare cases in which a standardized assessment is not an appropriate way to measure the achievement of an individual student, the student may apply for a waiver,” he added.

For Gobin, the appeal process is moot. She believes students have enough requirements to meet to graduate as it is that the NECAP test shouldn’t be an additional task to worry about.

“Some kids are honor roll students and they don’t test well,” she said. “We already have enough graduation requirements. We already have our portfolio and our capstone. Why do you have to add this gigantic test onto it?”

Either way, Gobin said, her score, the score of thousands of students like her and the reaction the tests have gotten as a whole prove RIDE should reconsider its policy.

“If I don’t pass it the first time, what can I do to pass it the second time?,” she said. “Is it going to be the same test? We don’t know. I’ve been stressing about it. They had to know that kids weren’t going to pass it. For two years now, they decided that my class was going to have to have it as a graduation requirement and so far we have no solution. They’ve had two years to think about it.”


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RI schools and teaching have a problem with math, it's been a problem for decades and this NECAP testing is an attempt to try to help kids get to the next level in math to go on to higher education or get a job.
With 40% of our student population proficient in math, by NECAP testing, it shows a negative trend no matter how much one doesn't like the testing.
There are many factors of failure and one has to hold the teaching methods under a review. My experience is that kids do not have a consistent teaching method from elementary, middle to high school. There have been several attempts to changing the way math is taught, all failures and the kids going through these failed trials are the ones that pay the price of educators mistakes.
With all of the brain power that we are paying for in our education system one would expect a higher proficiency percentage. Maybe RI needs to look at MA to get it right.

Comment #1 by Gary Arnold on 2013 03 19

to all those blaming gist--you should be blaming the unions, past adminsitrators and rotten politicians that allowed this to happen for the last 40 years.

congrats - you should all be proud of your accomplishments.

just keep voting democrat and this is what ou get.

Comment #2 by jon paycheck on 2013 03 19

Just read this article about this honor roll young lady from Coventry High School who failed the test by one point. The girl is now full of high anxiety, knowing she cannot retake the test till January. She is a nervous wreck. This is what Gist is doing..She is making diligent high school students with this one focused test,full of high anxiety. So tell me, will the next business to make a profit be the pharmaceutical companies prescribing anti anxiety pills for honor roll students waiting .....just waiting.... to get this obstacle behind them? Gist won't buckle. Yet she says what can I do to help the students? What hypocrisy is this? What does she care? She has no children. She doesn't know what it is to have your diligent about school son or daughter worrying. But maybe some parent's whose junior didn't pass the test will have a child with sleeping problems, anxiety problems, knowing college of their choice is now iffy...this kind of anxious feeling is worse than just failing the test...It is the "not knowing of the future" that will do this conscientious young lady and those like her in. The stress will do them in.
All I read here is the focus on a higher proficiency percentage rating...concrete numbers, the score on one test on one day in the life of a student...
Why is Gist and RIDE even using this one sterile, "not really measuring what is taught in the curriculum" test?
And guess what? In two years it will be replaced with a new test..one that will follow the Common Core Standards...More money for test makers like Pearson to make billions in profits.

The RIDE rules say student achievement must be made...it doesn't specifically say a test has to measure achievement..That is Gist's interpretation..the easy way out...One test does all...
There are many other alternative methods to evaluate student growth and achievement. It doesn't have to be the easy way out- one test.
Finland does not test students. Finland is the #1 countryin the world for education. We should be following theior successful ways.

Comment #3 by dis gusted on 2013 03 19

If we wanted to follow Massachusetts' lead, we'd switch to using the MCAS for graduation, which was designed for that purpose and is significantly easier to pass. Based on comparisons between MA, and the NECAP states -- VT, NH and RI -- about 25% more of our kids would pass the MCAS than do the NECAP.


Ultimately this is a very specific technical problem -- the NECAP was not designed as a graduation test.

Comment #4 by Tom Hoffman on 2013 03 19

Don't see how NECAP is more stringent than MCAS, a lot of assumptions with no comparison of tests. Just look at the description of each test.

NECAP tests are administered to Rhode Island students in third grade through high school, and assess reading, math, science, and writing proficiency. RI NECAP test results provide actionable data that will help parents, teachers, and students improve academic performance. NECAP tests are also used to determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

To comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, Massachusetts administers standardized tests to students beginning in 3rd grade through high school. All students in 3rd through 8th grade, as well as 10th grade, take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) in English language arts and math, while students in 5th and 8th grade also take a science test. The MCAS is a standards-based test, which means that test items are based on grade-specific Massachusetts academic content standards. Students in 10th and 11th grade who are enrolled in biology, chemistry, introductory physics and technology/engineering classes also take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System Science and Technology/Engineering Tests (MCAS STE), which are end-of-course tests.

Oh by the way, RI is going from NECAP to Common Core next year, another change in RI that will only confuse the kids more.

Comment #5 by Gary Arnold on 2013 03 19

Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire score have very similar proficiency rates in the national NAEP mathematics tests in grade 8, and on the SAT. The proficiency rates in 8th grade NECAP in those states is also similar to the 8th grade MCAS.

However, the minimum proficiency rates in the 10th/11th grade MCAS are in the high 90's while for NH and VT NECAP rates are in the mid 60's -- a significant spread. This cannot be completely explained by the additional motivation of needing to pass the MCAS to graduate because you don't see the same spread in the reading scores (e.g., last year 8% of NH 11th grade students were in level 1 in reading, but 36% were in math, same as two years ago).

Comment #6 by Tom Hoffman on 2013 03 19

Some kids do as little as possible to play sports and graduate. Expecting more of our children is a good thing. After a rough start they will rise to the challenge.

Comment #7 by george pratt on 2013 03 19

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