Providence teacher: “standardized testing shouldn’t be happening this year”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Standardized tests are back this year after many were waived in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Statewide, RICAS testing is underway for students in grades 3-8 and though many students are still learning remotely, they are required to show up in person to take the test. That has teachers like Enrique Sanchez concerned many may not be ready for testing.

“This testing should not be happening right now, especially during a pandemic,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez is a high school teacher in the Providence School District. While his students won’t take the RICAS, they are preparing for PSAT’s and SAT’s.

“5,000 to 6,000 students are in VLA right now, which is the online learning program,” Sanchez said. “They also want those students to take the tests. Those students have not been in class.”

According to guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Education, distance learning students are not excused from tests like RICAS. These tests are federally required and districts have to have a 95% participation rate.

RIDE says students must come into the school building where there will be stable pods and social distancing.

“They’ve been out of school for months,” Sanchez said. “So, now they’re just expected to come back and just take these tests as if there was no pandemic? As if they’re already supposed to know the material?”

So, what if a student doesn’t do well? Or, what if their parent refuses to send their child in?

RIDE says they are currently in the process of requesting accountability relief regarding identification of underperforming districts. However, Sanchez says even before COVID, the tests didn’t fairly assess all students’ learning levels, especially in districts like Providence with a high percentage of ESL students.

“They don’t come from taking the RICAS testing, access testing, PSAT’s. They’re not used to these tests,” Sanchez said.  “I relate to a lot of these students who are mostly Hispanic or Latino. I’ve seen first hand students just look at these tests and stare at them for 5 to 15 minutes before they answer the first question.”

There are a few exemptions from taking a test like RICAS. Those include if a student has a medical exemption from RIDE or if they are a first-year English learner.

A spokesperson from RIDE says that assessments do not count towards grades and are critical to inform where and who requires accelerated learning opportunities. Without it, they say they would be working off of 2019 data, which doesn’t give an accurate look into what learning has looked like over the past two years.

For more information on RICAS, visit: RICAS Assessments

For more questions: RIDE: Q&A

To find out when your child’s test is, visit: Assessment Schedules (ri.gov)

Categories: News, Our Schools, Providence, Rhode Island