Providence High School Student Group to Protest NECAP Requirements

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


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The Providence Student Union plans to issue its first "State of the Student Address" on Tuesday afternoon -- and NECAPs will be front and center.

On Tuesday afternoon, high school students with the Providence Student Union (PSU) will deliver the first annual "State of the Student Address" in front of the State House -- and call into question once again the role of standardized testing in the new state graduation requirements.

"The makers of the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) have said that the test results shouldn't be used for graduation requirements," said Hector Perea, a junior at Hope High School and member of the PSU. "It's supposed to be a test to show if you're not proficient on some areas, you need extra help there. It's not designed to show what you've learned."

The PSU "State of the Student Address" is scheduled for 4:30 P.M. in front of the State House, prior to Education Commissioner Deborah Gist's 4th annual State of Education address to the General Assembly at 5 P.M. in the House Chamber.  A live-stream of the PSU address can be found starting at 4:30 on Facebook here.

According to a press release sent out this week by PSU, speakers "intend to offer recommendations for the changes our state's young people need to achieve high standards in high school and beyond, with topics including teaching and learning, curriculum, school repairs, assessment and high-stakes testing."

On Monday afternoon, Spokesperson Elliot Krieger with the Department of Education said, "The Commissioner has offered -- and continues to offer -- to meet with members of the Providence Student Union."

Student Union to Voice Education Concerns

The PSU was started in the spring of 2010 at Hope High School when students "joined together to protect their school's popular block schedule from being dismantled," according to its website. 

In the release sent out by the PSU, it stated, "Students are the ones who actually experience the "State of Education" every day, so PSU has decided to take this opportunity to share our vision for the schools Rhode Island's students deserved."

GoLocalProv spoke with PSU member Hector Perea over the weekend about his involvement with the group, which currently includes student representatives from Central and Mount Pleasant High Schools, in addition to E-Cubed Academy

"Hope High School is the fourth school I've been to in three years," said Perea. "I started at the Paul Cuffee School, went to Providence Career and Tech, then the Jacqueline M. Walsh School (for the Visual and Performing Arts) in Pawtucket."

He continued, "I'm definitely happiest now at Hope, but when I wrote a piece in English class intended for the principal about how we need to empower students to have a say, my teacher suggested I get involved with PSU."

Perea said he began his work with the group last fall, and said the PSU was recently involved with the "Occupy the Department of Education" effort in Washington, D.C.

"What we plan to talk about in the State of the Student address are a number of concerns to high school students, such as curriculum changes, and buildings and transportation issues," said Perea. "One of our main focus areas though will be on graduation requirements. We feel that Rhode Island should have an alternative, performance-based requirements like they have currently in NY."

"We just testified up at the State House against NECAPs," continued Perea. "Not only are they not a good measure of a student's abilities, studies have shown that the test isn't fair to students with disabilities and ILPs (Individual Learning Plans), and discriminates against students of color."

Perea noted that ideally, he'd like to see senior projects -- rather than portfolios -- as a basis for graduation requirements. "The way that portfolios make you apply specific examples from all your classes really hinders what you can do. It's limiting."

"I saw my cousin do his project several years ago on music, and he was really passionate about it. That's what students need. We want to be able to be energized about what we're doing." Perea noted that if given the ability, he'd pursue a project based on his involvement with CityArts, an after-school and summer program he's involved with.

Perea added that PSU would like to see student representatives on the recently formed Rhode Island Board of Education. "And we'd like to see two, at least. One student wouldn't be able to speak for all of us."

Gist to Focus on Innovation, Achievement

In a release sent out from RIDE Monday afternoon, the Department offered the following on what to expect in this afternoon's speech.  "In [Gist's] address, "Stepping Up for Success: The State of Education in Rhode Island," Commissioner Gist will emphasize the importance of investments and innovations in such areas as programs for early learning, innovations powered by technology, and improvements in mathematics achievement."

In addition, "[Gist] will recognize award-winning educators and she will also recognize 12 Rhode Island schools for recent improvements and accomplishments," which are listed as follows:

The Blackstone Academy charter public school

The Burrillville Middle School

Mount Hope High School (Bristol Warren)

The North Smithfield Middle School

North Providence High School

The Pleasant View School (Providence)

Ponaganset High School, in Foster-Glocester

Smithfield Senior High School

The Suzanne M. Henseler Quidnesset Elementary School (North Kingstown)

The Stephen Olney School (North Providence)

Times2 Academy (Providence)

West Warwick Senior High School.


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