The School Committee gave a "first reading" Tuesday night to a waiver policy that could be used by students seeking a high school diploma who are unable to score high enough on the NECAP state assessment exams. By state law, starting in 2014, students are required to pass the NECAPs in order to earn a high school diploma, but the state Department of Education will allow districts to grant waivers to those students who prove they have otherwise earned a diploma.
Last year, 26 EGHS juniors scored substantially below proficient in mathematics and 3 scored substantially below proficient in reading. (EGHS did not give EG Patch the number of seniors who retook the NECAP in October.)
Results from NECAP retake won't be out until January or February. If those students still were unable to show "partial proficiency" or significant improvement, they could then apply for a waiver.
According to the proposed policy, presented at the Dec. 3 School Committee meeting, "the student will compile evidence, which he/she must present to the East Greenwich Educational Review Committee." That ERC panel will consist of the superintendent, director of student services, a high school administrator, and one School Committee member. Parents may be invited. The ultimate determination is up to the superintendent.
The policy read that while the school may "support" the student in collecting and organizing "evidence" for the ERC, the work is ultimately the responsibility of the student.
Parent Tina Egan said it was important for the schools to be proactive with students in the waiver process and pointed to RIDE's own waiver policy template, which reads, "[East Greenwich High School] commits to be proactive in monitoring a student's eligibility for a waiver and, when appropriate, support the compilation of evidence needed for a waiver."
"Right now, the spotlight on is [the students seeking a waiver] but for the policy it’s important that the school be proactive because it's a lot of work," said Egan. "And the teachers have all the information. There's nothing I have at home that can help me start the waiver petition with my student. It's all in the classroom because the alternates are tests they took in school. You really need the school."
Supt. Victor Mercurio agreed with Egan, and with the School Committee's support, he said he would revise the EG policy to reflect that change.
What sort of material will be reviewed in the waiver process?
Eligible "evidence" includes passing grades on comprehensive course assessments, required courses, performance tasks, and courses taken off site or virtually. Things like letters of recommendation, attendance records and having the appropriate number of earned credits are not considered eligible evidence, according to the policy.
Jean Ann Guliano, a parent as well as the former chairwoman of the School Committee, remains unhappy with the NECAP graduation policy, but spoke well of changes to the policy.
"I'm glad they are making it a more proactive process on the school side," she said. "I still believe that it is a terrible policy – putting so much emphasis on standardized testing – but hopefully the waiver will help protect our most vulnerable students."
The School Committee will hear a second reading on the waiver policy Dec. 17.