By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
The NECAP graduation-by-proficiency requirements are at the center of a major debate, but a new test is on the way in, and the NECAP is on its way out. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, the NECAP will give way to a new test called the PARCC that will determine graduation eligibility for Rhode Island students.
The New England Common Assessment Program has been in place since 2005, but 2014 is the first year it will have an impact on whether Rhode Island’s current juniors will be able to get a diploma. The NECAP, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) is based on current standards that were put into place in 2003.
The NECAP is used by other New England states to examine student progress and educator efficacy. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine also use the NECAP, but Maine does not administer it to high schoolers. A spokesman for RIDE said, to his knowledge, New Hampshire and Vermont do not use the NECAP to determine students’ eligibility to graduate. A spokewoman for Vermont was not sure about NECAP ties to graduation, while New Hampshire said some schools link the test to graduation eligibility.
Based on that information, Rhode Island is the only state to implement statewide use of the NECAP to determine graduation eligibility, but we’re not the only state whose 11th graders have struggled with the math portion of the exam. According to 2012 test results from New Hampshire, most students (5,168 or 36 percent) scored “substantially below proficient” on the exam. According to Rhode Island’s standards, those students would be in jeopardy of not graduating. On the flip side, another 5,000 students scored “proficient;” only 2 percent of students earned a score of “proficient with distinction” on the test.”
In Vermont, 38 percent of students scored “substantially below proficient” on the math NECAP in Vermont. Similar to New Hampshire, 35 percent scored “proficient” while only 3 percent scores “proficient with distinction.”
In Rhode Island, 40 percent of students scored “substantially below proficient” on the math portion.
In Vermont, the Department of Education released a report examining the major gap between reading and math NECAP scores, which are seen in each state that uses the test. The report says many students said they “had limited experience with some of the questions.”
The report goes on to say “it is very possible that in the end there will be no single explanation for the low math scores, and certainly not one that will be the magic bullet for resolving the issues.”
A quick fix would be helpful, considering the NECAP is nearly on its way out. The controversial test will be replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in the 2014-15 school year.
A spokesman for RIDE said the test will be administered to students graduating in 2015 on tablets and laptops – a pencil and paper option will be available, but the plan is that the test be all digital.
Elliott Krieger, executive assistant to Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, told WPRO the PARCC is still under development and is based on the Common Core State Standards, which will be fully implemented next year. The scoring level to meet graduation requirements has not yet been set.
Krieger said students will take the PARCC near the end of each school year. Twenty-one other states will use PARCC and 46 states are implementing the Common Core.
The first graduating class that will be affected by the PARCC resutls is the class of 2016.