RIDE changing standardized testing; PARCC out, SAT/PSAT mandatory

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It took Rhode Island three years to give up on the PARCC exam.

Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said Friday the state is planning to begin using a standardized test similar to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) for students in grades three through eight, while high school students will be required to take the PSAT and SAT.

Students are still taking the PARCC in the current school year – the testing window is open until May 26 – and the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System (RICAS) will begin next year.

“This approach will provide continuity in the classroom for teachers and students, maintain high-quality assessment information about student progress, build a long-term partnership with a high-performing neighboring state, and further decrease testing time,” Wagner said in a prepared statement. “The short-term impact will be small, but the long-term benefits have the potential to be significant.”

The changes were first reported by the Providence Journal.

The PARCC exam was widely despised by teachers, in part because of the amount of classroom time it took to administer the exam. The results in the first two years of testing were dreadful, with 30% of students statewide showing proficiency in math and 38% showing proficiency in English language arts (ELA) last year.

The state’s about-face on the PARCC is somewhat surprising given Wagner’s support for the exam in the past. But he said the new system will provide “the best, most consistent measure of student progress, without placing an undue burden on students or educators.”

Wagner and his aides have been crisscrossing the state for months seeking stakeholder input on how Rhode Island should implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015. The state is expected to submit a final plan to the U.S. Department of Education by July.

ESSA won bipartisan support in part because it gave individual states more control over accountability systems as well as student and teacher evaluations, but has seen some changes since President Trump took office. A requirement to test all students in grades three through eight remains in place.

Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan