NARRAGANSETT — In a stunning turn of events, the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education dashed the dreams of student activists Thursday night when it postponed voting on whether to restore 90 minutes of teacher planning time at Hope High School.
The regents were expected to approve state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist’s ruling in favor of more teacher planning time because a three-member regents’ subcommittee had done so in late November.
Instead, the regents, led by Amy Beretta, delayed taking action until a report prepared by an outside observer is completed in late January. Gist recently appointed a special visitor to help the school redesign the schedule to accommodate the additional planning time.
For Hope students, Thursday night was supposed to a victory celebration, the culmination of nine months of protests, appeals and petitions, something their lawyer, Miriam Weizenbaum, called “an audacious leap of faith.”
Instead, students responded with anger, confusion and dismay.
“They took something great and turned it into something horrible,” said Angela Cruz, a senior. “It’s not fair. They’re trying to find a way out of this.”
When Weizenbaum tried to respond to the regents, she was promptly shut down by Robert J. Flanders Jr., chairman of the regents, who told her she was out of order.
“This is outrageous,” Weizenbaum said afterward. “This is an agenda item that they refused to act on because they don’t want to follow the law.”
At least Angus Davis expressed some qualms about this.
“In my opinion, a three-tiered diploma system based on NECAP test scores is morally, ethically and pedagogically wrong,” said Amy Leonard of South Kingstown, an educational consultant.
Ken Fish, who worked at the state Department of Education and helped to develop the 2003 regulations, lashed out at the plan to weigh test scores more heavily.
The original vision for improving high schools rejected high-stakes testing. Instead, schools had to prove they had made a series of required changes by 2012, such as ensuring that all students has access to high-level classes and effective teachers.
But as of 2011, many school systems are lagging in making these changes. And thousands of students remain unable to reach proficiency.
“Why are we willing to hold students responsible for an education they have not received?” Fish asked the regents.
Some of the most impassioned protests came directly from members of the Class of 2012.
“Why should we be labeled by what kind of certificate or diploma we get?” said Jacqueline Lee, a junior at the MET School. “Society will look at me even worse than it already does today. No one in this room can say I won’t be successful in my future because of a test.”
Here's a good stat:What percentage of Providence Public Schools 11th graders with IEP's taking the NECAP in October 2009 would be ineligible for a diploma this spring under these rules: 98%
Ultimately this system will be torpedoed by affluent parents outraged that their otherwise exemplary children are being denied "honors" diplomas solely because of NECAP math -- for example only 10% eligible in this year's class at suburban Barrington High. Well, either that or they'll just change the honors part and we'll have a big lawsuit about the rest.