N.K.H.S graduation requirements take shape
As the 2009-2010 school year draws to a close with a flurry of proms and graduations, North Kingstown High School administrators are that much closer to having to implement the highly touted, anxiety-producing graduation requirements demanded by 2001’s No Child Left Behind legislation.
The stakes are high for the school, which earlier this year received a reprimand from the R.I. Dept. of Education, after a follow-up visit revealed “no progress” in the areas RIDE had identified in 2008 as in need of improvement.
The Jan. 10 letter, addressed to Superintendent Phil Thornton, stated, “These results indicate no progress in the areas communicated in the Jan. 8 correspondence from this office ...the review process indicates that North Kingstown has a signifi cant amount of work to do in order to meet these expectations and achieve 2012 R.I. Diploma System full approval.”
By the time Thornton received this correspondence, administrators had already hired Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Phil Auger to address these issues, Thornton said previously.
Since being hired in July of last year, Auger said, he and the entire team of administrators, department heads and teachers have been hard at work to meet the requirements and secure Regents approved diplomas for the class of 2012.
At issue is a requirement that by 2012, high school administrators must demonstrate that every child who graduates has learned the state curriculum in six core subjects of English, math, social studies, science, technology and art, Auger said.
The bulk of the work relates to proficiency-based graduation requirements that provide documented evidence of each graduating senior’s proficiency in the six core subjects.
Currently, several tools are used to evaluate and document this proficiency, Auger said.
“Rhode Island has always been resistant to one-size-fits-all tests,” he said.
Because of that resistance, the state already had several evaluative tools in place, he said. The task now, he said, is to take a close look at those tools and ensure that there is consistency throughout – and that students are learning the necessary core material in the six target areas.
The most widely known of these evaluative tools is the New England Common Assessment Program, a series of reading, writing, mathematics and science achievement tests administered annually.
Two other forms of evaluating proficiency are also required for high school graduation: The e-portfolio, which each student presents at the end of his or her junior year, and the senior project, presented at the end of the senior year.
Students who are not able to meet proficiency standards on the NECAP exam may still demonstrate proficiency using these other tools, Auger said.
Auger’s job, he said, is to lead the school’s team to meet NCLB standards through increasing NECAP scores and tightening the standards for alternative tools.
For example, Auger said, the e-portfolio includes “anchor assignments,” which students complete for each of the core subjects every semester. Currently, those assignments do not necessarily reflect core learning. They may simply be something the teachers are doing in common – and that needs to change, Auger said.
“We are moving toward anchor assignments that reflect core learning in each of the six subjects,” he said.
Another concern with e-portfolios is that students are not required to pass every assignment if the overall average is within passing range. Auger intends to work toward changing that as well, he said.
“We need to implement some policies that will not just give every student the opportunity to learn, but will take more responsibility to make sure they learn what they need to learn,” he said.
Part of that process will have to include setting aside a certain amount of time for a student to re-do anchor assignments, he said. Auger intends to establish an afterschool tutoring service that students may attend to get assistance with these requirements.
“There is a lot of work to do still,” Auger said.
The good news is that the process has started, changes are taking place in accordance with RIDE standards and the team is committed to seeing the process through, Auger said.
Will the team be able to make the necessary changes by 2012?
“It’s all new,” Auger said, “but we are working closely with RIDE to meet the requirements.”
If the team falls short of meeting all of RIDE’s requirements by then, Auger said, the hope is that the evidence will show that enough work has been done, as well as the team’s commitment to the process, for RIDE to grant North Kingstown High School’s 2012 graduating class Regentsapproved diplomas.