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Travis Rowley: PSU Calls On Adults To Kick-Flip Their Skateboards

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Winning the “Duh” award this week is the Providence Student Union, a coalition of high school students who have taken issue with the RI Department of Education’s decision to link student NECAP scores to their ability to graduate – an imminent reform that was telegraphed to teachers and students over five years ago.

Beginning with the class of 2014, Rhode Island seniors will have had to have shown that they are at least “partially proficient” in both the math and reading portions of the NECAP exam – on a tenth grade level.

Students who miss the mark will have the opportunity to retake the test two more times, and will be provided the resources necessary to improve their scores. These include online modules, tutors, after-school programs, and summer programs. Seniors who still fail to demonstrate partial proficiency at the tenth grade level may still fulfill their NECAP requirement merely by achieving “significant growth” in knowledge from test to test, which essentially amounts to answering 5 more questions correctly.

Unable to shake the reality that Rhode Island diplomas have been embarrassingly devalued over the years, the PSU’s grand plan to gain ground in the public relations war was to challenge adults to take the NECAP test – the results of which would be able to be portrayed as evidence of the injustice the NECAP standard imposes on students.

Even adults fail the children’s exam!

Sure enough, after several dozen adults – most of whom are known progressive activists and politicians – took an “abridged portion of the math NECAP,” the PSU made sure the local press reported that “more than half of the 50 adults” who took the test scored “substantially below proficient.” And, afterward, “more than a few suggested abandoning the test as a graduation requirement.”

A stunt deliberately designed to invoke sympathy from the public, the PSU was attempting to make everyone overlook the obvious: The average adult isn’t supposed to be able to pass the NECAP test. Teenage students are. And the fact of the matter is that many peers of the PSU activists actually perform very well on the NECAP exam. Thousands more simply do what it takes to pass.

As Eva-Marie Mancuso, the chairwoman of the new Rhode Island Board of Education, explained, “Students aren’t given the NECAP without any preparation…Schools have known about the graduation requirement for several years and they have been told to develop elaborate plans to bring students up to speed.”

Nevertheless, it seemed not to matter to the PSU that to expect adults, who are several decades removed from high school, to exhibit the academic aptitude of full-time teenage students – whose lives are largely dedicated to mastering high school subjects and NECAP material – makes no sense.

Moreover, it makes no significant point.

Hey, kids, guess what: Adults can’t 360-Tail-Whip their BMX bikes anymore either. But we don’t see you drafting any press releases about that, do we?

Future Democrats

After observing the nonsensical antics of the PSU, it’s easy for one to conclude that it’s really no mystery that these particular students object to being tested.

In reality, though, the PSU is not just a rabble of bratty and dimwitted high school students who find it wise to continue to shepherd unqualified students toward college campuses. Worse, they’re being manipulated and encouraged by professional political agitators who are aligned and associated with major players of the Rhode Island Left – the ACLU, the teachers unions, elected Democrats, and RIFuture.org.

Disguised as laudable “civic engagement” – as argued by Alex Morash of the Young Democrats of RI – the PSU now travels the world of radical community organizing. PSU teenagers are being taught to influence the media with cynical gimmicks like NECAP challenges and zombie protests – trained to have their propaganda shroud their poor arguments.

These students are now part of a political culture that leads to ignorance and a false sense of intellectual and moral superiority – an outlook that justifies being the bully while pretending to be the victim. The PSU has helped to lead and establish an activist mentality that has prompted some of their peers to take to the Twittersphere to call Education Commissioner Deborah Gist the “C word” and a “dumbass” – telling Gist, “You suck” and “Fuck you.”

The ACLU showed up to defend the students on the grounds of free speech.

Gist was correct to express her disappointment not in the students, but in the adults who entertained the PSU’s latest “publicity stunt” – calling their participation “an outrageous act of irresponsibility” as they emboldened a bunch of brash and impressionable kids.

“It’s deeply irresponsible on the part of the adults, especially those who are highly educated,” she said. “They’re sending a message that it can’t be done or that it doesn’t matter…I spent a lot of time [this weekend] trying to convince students why it matters…We need all of the adults rallying around these students rather than getting caught up in arguments that don’t have any substance.”

“It’s, like, if you’re never going to use this stuff, why test us on it,” one student remarked.

This is the type of immature teenage activist that progressive adults prefer to stand beside as they undermine standards-enforcing educational professionals.

“I don't see how cramming for this test and earning a better score will in anyway make me a better person or help me be more effective in my career,” decided another individual involved in the controversy. But she wasn’t a student. She was Representative Teresa Tanzi (D).

You see, Deborah Gist is dealing with children of all ages.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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