The other day, I put a spotlight on the suspicious delay in the state’s release of results from public schools’ standardized PARCC tests. In the days since, the two challengers facing incumbent Democrat Gina Raimondo have picked up that theme and drawn a response from the state Department of Education (RIDE). If anything, Education Commissioner Ken Wagner’s explanation only reinforces the suspicion:
“This is the first year of the new test,” Wagner said. “We’ve never released them before. People don’t know what it is.”
“Colloquially, it’s a harder test,” he said of the RICAS. “Massachusetts has a more rigorous standard. We have to figure out how to explain [to Rhode Island parents] the comparison with Massachusetts. We have to figure out how we help parents to understand the change in their child’s test scores.”
Wagner said that with the new tests, Rhode Island students, in order to reach proficiency, have to get more questions right than they did on the previous tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.
Wagner also said that student scores typically drop with any new test, which was the case when Rhode Island adopted PARCC several years ago.
In short, the state expects there to be score-shock from parents and the public because the harder test is producing results even worse than the earlier version, which was already producing shockingly poor results by some lights. The only question, now, is the motivation for the delay: Is it to figure out how to explain the setback in a way that will tamp down outrage, or is it to keep that outrage from affecting the election?
To formulate an answer, readers should ask themselves a somewhat different question: If the results came in surprisingly fantastic, would RIDE have held back the good news until after the election? Of course not.