30 Young Voices members
submit written testimony,
pushing for a ban on using high-stakes tests as a barrier to graduation
Click below to see Julian's powerful testimony at the State House--- five other Young Voices members also spoke.
Click here to read a Providence Journal article quoting Young Voices member Rosseline Benscome, age 14.
Regulations set to go into effect in 2014 will deny students a high school diploma based on their score on a state standardized test, regardless of their grades or any other school performance. Rosseline, one of our youth who testified, is on the honor roll. She scored high on the writing section of the test. But her low score on the math section puts her in jeopardy of no diploma despite all of her hard work and academic success.
We certainly believe that our young people have the capacity to learn at advanced levels. But the reality is that our education system is not preparing them to have these skills.
These alarming statistics from the recent 11th grade test scores show the facts:
- Almost half of all students in the state (44%), are at risk of not getting a diploma
- 70% of all African-American and Latino students are at risk of not getting a diploma
The fact that our system has failed to provide our children with the skills they need to succeed is a travesty. Punishing these children, for a system failure, by denying them a high school diploma and thereby sentencing them to a life of poverty is nothing short of a complete injustice.
It has been stated that we do kids a disservice if they graduate lacking skills, that they can't get a job, or get into the army, and they need all kinds of remediation when they go to college. But how will they get that job when we've denied them a high school degree? The army will likely have no interest then. And we won't have to worry about them needing to take remedial courses because they can't even go to college.
Our question to the proponents of the high stakes test is: what services will you have in place for the thousands of kids who won't get a high school degree? Are you prepared to support them? Or are they just the "collateral damage" in your policy?
The sad part is that this damage to our most vulnerable youth will do nothing to fix the reason they are so far behind. An in-depth study, conducted in 2011 by the National Academies of Sciences of high school "exit exams" concluded that "high school exit exam programs...decrease the rate of high school graduation without increasing achievement".
There is a way to fix the problem-put system reforms in place at elementary school, so our students never have to fall so far behind. More than ½ of the third-graders in our urban districts are not proficient. This is where our interventions are needed. The faulty approach of using a high-stakes test will do nothing but cause more damage to the young people we have already failed.