With the release of Rhode Island’s abysmal results on its first round of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, the adults who ought to be held accountable for the travesty are out in force to redirect blame.
Joseph Crowley, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals, insists (in the words of his headline) “Poverty, not schools” are “to blame for low scores” (Commentary, Nov. 27). Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman, co-directors of The Learning Community charter school, agree but promise that more money for lower-income districts is a solution (“Change formula to help poor,” Commentary, Nov. 16). Anna Cano Morales, director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University and chairwoman of the Central Falls School District’s Board of Trustees, says we’re not doing enough to help Latino and English-learning students (“R.I. must close learning gap,” Commentary, Nov. 29).
On and off the commentary pages, the excuses fly, most of them demanding more money or calling for an end to the last traces of reform. In a bad spot out of the gate, Rhode Island’s new education commissioner, Ken Wagner, responded to unsatisfactory results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests by saying the state must have “the will to persist in what we know works” (“Notes of caution as R.I. scores dip in latest ‘Nation’s Report Card’,” news, Oct. 28).
Fine, but what “works”? When the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity put together an online tool to track NAEP scores across the country, the first observation to jump off the screen was that nine years of accelerating improvement in Rhode Island came to a halt after 2011. Something had stopped working.