- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would impose a moratorium on using student performance on the NECAP standardized test for a student to graduate from high school, but the House speaker came out against the bill.

The legislation, approved by the Senate on a 29-5, would suspend until 2017 the use of any standardized test as a graduation requirement, including the New England Common Assessment Program.

This year’s graduating class is the first that must show at least partial proficiency - or improvement on a re-test - to get a diploma.

Critics say the NECAP was not designed to assess student achievement and is not a valid measure of it. They say some students, including minorities, disabled students and English language learners, are disproportionately disadvantaged because they have not been adequately prepared for the test.

Sen. Adam Satchell, a West Warwick Democrat and the bill’s lead sponsor, called use of the test as a diploma requirement “a disaster.”

Meanwhile, the legislation’s prospects look dim in the House. Larry Berman, a spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, said the legislative leader doesn’t think the bill is necessary because of the “broad range of waivers” that superintendents can give students.

As of May 1, 93 percent of those in this year’s senior class had either met the NECAP requirement, passed one of the other approved tests or been granted a waiver from their district, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Deborah Gist, commissioner for elementary and secondary education, also opposes a moratorium. She said in a statement Wednesday that the state’s diploma system, including the NECAP requirement, has helped make this year’s graduating class better prepared than any previous one.

“We will continue working with schools and school districts to help all students earn a diploma and to prepare all of our graduates for success beyond high school,” she said.

This week, the Rhode Island Board of Education voted not to reconsider use of the NECAP as a requirement.

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