March 20, 2014

Supt. Lusi tells lawmakers that too much testing hurting preparation for Common Core

Linda Borg, Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — School Supt. Susan Lusi told lawmakers that her students and staff are spending too much time on testing at the expense of preparing students for the Common Core state standards.
Lusi and Providence School Board President Keith Oliveira were invited by Rep. Teresa Tanzi to speak Wednesday before a dozen members of the General Assembly. Tanzi said the forum was designed as a follow-up to a recent hearing before the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
Tanzi, D-South Kingstown, said she didn’t invite anyone from the state Department of Education to Wednesday’s roundtable. She said, however, that she had invited state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist to speak at two earlier public forums, but that she had declined.
Elliot Krieger, a spokesman for the education commissioner, said the Department of Education plans to schedule a forum on the Common Core education standards at Rhode Island College. The Common Core is a uniform set of English and math standards adopted by 45 states, including Rhode Island and the District of Colombia.
Lusi said Rhode Island is not making the same commitment to education reform that has made Massachusetts a national leader.
“In Providence, what we’re doing is distracting us from that agenda,” she said. “We’re not focused on the Common Core. We’re just doing test after test.”
Gist says that testing high school students is one way of demonstrating that they are prepared for college or the workplace. Too many students, she says, have graduated only to find themselves taking remedial courses in college.
Students who fail the NECAP are eligible to take one of 10 alternate tests. Waivers are available on a case-by-case basis for students who have demonstrated subject mastery.
Oliveira worries that those seniors who don’t pass the NECAP, which they can retake, will become discouraged and drop out.
Several legislators expressed concern Wednesday that the NECAP was putting too much stress on high school juniors and seniors and their teachers.
“I taught for 37 years and I retired from teaching because all we did was test,” said Rep. Donna Walsh, D-Charlestown. “I saw kids that were test-weary. We are testing at the expense of curriculum.”
But Rep. Joy Hearn, D-Barrington, cautioned against rolling back the clock on education reform.
“We need to get these students as much help as humanly possible,” she said. “Our responsibility as legislators is to make sure we deliver educated adults.”