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When considering if the NECAP test should be used to determine the type of diploma a student is awarded, it seems reasonable that we examine all the research backing up the NECAP. After all, if the test is not a reliable measure of a student’s knowledge and abilities, then it is likely that some students will not receive the diploma they deserve, ultimately limiting their postsecondary options. How will colleges look at students with the lower level diplomas? How will employers judge their skills and abilities? The cost is great. We must be certain we have the right test when so much is on the line. Alarmingly, a review of the research on validity of the NECAP, all of them completed by Measured Progress (the creator of NECAP), convincingly demonstrates that the NECAP is not a valid measure for a significant percentage of Rhode Island students. The implication is that not only is the NECAP a high stake test, it “drives a stake” through what should be the bright future of Rhode Island students. In a series of studies completed under the New England Compact (NEC), researchers have found there is a population of students for whom the NECAP does not accurately assess their knowledge and skills. For example, in Reaching students in the daps: A study of assessment gaps, students, and alternatives, two Measured Progress researchers, Sue Bechard and Ken Godin, come to this explicit conclusion: “For these two distinct profiles of students who did not achieve proficiency on the test, the current assessment is not an accurate representation of their skills and/or progress. These profiles support the findings that different approaches to testing are needed”(New England Compact 5). As you can see from the table below, the two groups of students include students with learning disabilities, English Language Learners, as well as students from the general population.
(New England Compact 4) Clearly the researchers found the evidence to support the existence of students for whom the NECAP is not a valid assessment. Furthermore, they go on to say the following: Results both from interviews and the analysis of test results confirmed that there are two gaps in the assessment systems we investigated. Furthermore, each gap contained, in contrasting proportions, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students in general education programs. This exploratory study suggests that different approaches to assessment may be indicated to respond to the needs of distinctly different populations of students in two assessment gaps. (New England Compact 4)
Implications for Rhode Island Students What is perhaps most alarming about these studies is the percentage of the student population that fall into the “gap.” In Who are the Students in the Gaps: What are their Attributes, and how do they Perform?, Bechard and Godin conclude that roughly 8.6% of students fall into Gap 1 and as much as 2.3% of students fall into Gap #2 (6). Added together, that is 10.9% of the student population. This means 10.9% of students may not be awarded the diploma that they rightly deserve. This raises several legal
questions about whether the current proposal is in violation of both No Child Left Behind (NCLB) as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This evidence, from external researchers, including the designers of the test, shows critical gaps that make the NECAP an inadequate measure--the wrong measure for these purposes. While the intent might not to be unjust, using this test in a conjunctive system is unjust. If the current proposal is approved, there is no doubt that it will end up in the courts. The question is, will the Board of Regents and Commissioner Gist keep pushing this proposal despite the overwhelming evidence that this is an unjust, illegal plan? Why let the future of Rhode Island students be decided by the courts, when there is overwhelming evidence that this plan will devastate the bright futures of so many of our young people?
Works Cited Bechard, Sue and Godin, Ken. New England Compact (2007). Who are the students in the gaps: What are their attributes, and how do they perform (Grant CFDA #84.368 of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, awarded to the Rhode Island Department of Education). Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc. New England Compact (2007). Reaching students in the gaps: A study of assessment gaps, students, and alternatives (Grant CFDA #84.368 of the U.S. Department of Education, Officeof Elementary and Secondary Education, awarded to the Rhode Island Department of Education). Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc.