By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
The student group that staged a zombie protest is now implementing a different tactic to speak out against the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test graduation requirement.
The Providence Student Union (PSU) will have roughly 40 elected officials, lawyers and members of the media take an abridged portion of the NECAP math exam on Saturday.
Aaron Regunberg, a Brown graduate working with the PSU, said a few elected officials have already taken the exam. Although Regunberg said the results will be released in an aggregated fashion – those who agreed to take it were adamant that individual scores be kept private – he said elected officials’ initial reactions to the exam spoke volumes.
“Yes there’s been some comments like, ‘What the hell?’” Regunberg told WPRO Wednesday. He said others said the test “looked like Greek” or they felt “stupid” and “scared” during the exam.
Among those who have already taken the test are Senator Gayle Goldin, Representative Gregg Amore and former gubernatorial candidate Myrth York.
"I would say I found it challenging," said Goldin, who took the exam last week. "I doubt I passed it."
Goldin, who works as a strategic initiatives officer for Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, said she has "no idea" how many questions she got right.
"I can't say I felt remotely certain about more than a couple of answers I gave," she said.
Rep. Gregg Amore, a high school history teacher in East Providence, said he took the test to better understand what his students had to face. He thinks he got about 7 of the 21 questions right.
"I left a lot of them blank," he said.
Amore admits he's "never been a strong math person," but said he let his wife, an accountant, review his answers afterwards.
"She found it challenging as well," he said.
Amore understands that a lot of what it on the NECAP math exam is not applied mathematics, it's algebra and questions specific to the curriculum high school students are studying at the time.
"What it's not is a test of besic math skills," he said.
On Saturday, more State Representatives, Senators, council members, school boards members and non-profit directors will sharpen their No. 2 pencils and take the roughly 90-minute exam. Although it’s illegal to obtain an actual copy of a NECAP exam, Regunberg said the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education releases sample questions from the exam each year; the Providence Student Union has compiled those questions into an abridged math test.
Why the math test? That’s the portion of the NECAP exam that poses the greatest problem to Rhode Island students. New numbers suggest that roughly 40 percent of Rhode Island students are in jeopardy of not graduating because of their low NECAP math scores.
Regunberg said he’s confident that a large proportion of the “accomplished individuals” slated to take the test will not be able to pass. He said the demonstration isn’t to prove that the NECAP is hard, it’s to show that performance on the NECAP does not indicate if someone will be “objectively successful.”
Those slated to take the test Saturday are Representatives Teresa Tanzi, Art Handy and Frank Ferri.
“A lot of people will be surprised,” said Regunberg about the anticipated test results.
The sample test will begin at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday at the Knight memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue in Providence.