Donna Perry: Passing the Bullying Test
Thursday, March 21, 2013
NECAP Publicity Stunt
Three more legislators will take part in the “NECAP Publicity Stunt: Part 2”, as they sit this weekend for a mock test taking of the highly controversial standardized exam. The growing clamor around what Board of Education Chairperson Eva-Marie Mancuso has correctly called “a publicity stunt” took on new twitter related twists over the past few days that revealed the challenge to the test has more to do with the desire by forces in some quarters to undermine the Commissioner at all costs in her unwavering determination to raise the standard for earning a RI high school diploma.
Engaging in a respectful, fact driven public debate over a testing policy is fine and appropriate. But what has occurred in this state over the past week is quite something else. What is very disturbing is that the larger lesson being taught certain groups of the state’s high school students, particularly a pair from Warwick’s Veterans Memorial High School, is that not only is it ok to tweet out profanity laced comments and criticism against a high ranking education official, but you will gain the support and encouragement of certain other adults by doing so.
ACLU getting in on the action
ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown’s arguments against standardized testing generally and the NECAP particularly, may hold some merit but they would be viewed with more credibility if he had not been such a willing participant in the test charade now underway. Furthermore, his rush to chastise Warwick school officials when they declared that the students engaged in the twitter bullying against Gist violated the school’s code of conduct and issued suspensions, only re-enforced the perception that student respect for high ranking school officials is unimportant to certain circles of adults. A troubling lesson plan indeed.
Perhaps it would be useful in the days ahead to not lose sight of a separate news story that has been dueling for coverage recently. Incorporated into the findings of fraud and waste in the now released Fraud and Waste Report compiled by Ken Block, was the striking data on the fast growing percentages of Rhode Islanders needing to rely on the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) or food stamps.
The federal government provided Rhode Island with some $25 million for food stamps just last month alone—to be distributed to over 180,000 of the state’s residents, stretching from Woonsocket to Warwick.
SNAP program to nearly 20% of the population
What often is lost in the continuing coverage and discussions about the state’s unemployment problem is that a weak job supply market is only one part of the story. The root causes of our high unemployment has a lot to do with what Deb Gist has championed since arriving in Rhode Island – despite the determination by some of the most powerful forces in the wider educational establishment to reject her mantra.
There is indisputable evidence that there’s a widening gap between the opportunities of today’s job market (being seized by other states)—and Rhode Island’s ability to turn out the type of highly skilled and properly educated workforce to meet them. A certain proficiency level in math, which seems to be at the center of the NECAP test firestorm, is one component of the “STEM” academic equation, and it’s indisputably an important one. The ongoing campaign against the test and the Commissioner will not change the reality that, as the Board of Education’s Ms. Mancuso asserted, the state’s students need adults who are preparing them to be successful in college and the workplace beyond. Merely passing a bullying test against education authorities just won’t be enough out in the real world.
Donna Perry is Executive Director of RI Taxpayers
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