Honor Roll Student Criticizes Testing Policy After Failing NECAPs

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


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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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