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Rhode Island educators to begin review of state, local assessments

Rhode Island educators are embarking on a year-long review of state and local assessments with the overall goals of streamlining the system of tests that educators administer to students and ensuring that educators and families use assessment results to advance teaching and learning.

The Assessment Project arises out of concerns many have expressed about too much testing in Rhode Island schools. In jointly announcing the project in a letter to school superintendents, Katherine E. Sipala, president of the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association, and Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist wrote:

Over the past year or more, many of us have heard from some students, teachers, and parents who expressed their concerns about over-testing in our schools. We share their concerns, and we want to take action on this matter. None of us wants to test students too much, and each of us can consider ways to streamline the assessment process, to eliminate assessments that do not advance teaching and learning, and to ensure that we use assessments to help us make good decisions about instruction. If assessments do not give us information that informs instruction, we should not administer those assessments. 

The Assessment Project will include focus groups and community meetings to look at the overall issue of assessments, and the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) will convene a working group of four districts (East Providence, Newport, North Kingstown, and North Providence) to analyze their assessment systems and develop plans to streamline assessments. RIDE will share information from the working group statewide and will encourage all school districts to undertake their own reviews of local assessments.

“The Assessment Project will be a statewide effort, so we will ensure that the voices of superintendents, principals, teachers, students, and family members contribute to this conversation,” said Sipala, the Narragansett Schools Superintendent. “I look forward to getting started on this important work.”

“Our goal is not to issue mandates or directives but rather to bring people together to develop useful guidance, suggestions, and models for best practice,” said Commissioner Gist. “Assessments are an essential part of the education process, so we must be sure that our state and local assessments are thoughtful and timely and that they provide information to inform parents and to help teachers improve instruction.” 

Superintendent Sipala and Commissioner Gist wrote in their letter to superintendents : 

As we continue developing new and better curriculum and instructional practices, all of us are aware that we also need to ensure that we have a high-quality system of assessments, including formative, interim, and summative assessments. Implemented well, such a comprehensive assessment system provides excellent information to support individual students in a way that improves, but does not disrupt, instruction. 

Superintendent Sipala and Commissioner Gist will communicate regularly with all school superintendents and with the public at large about opportunities to participate in The Assessment Project and about the findings and recommendations that arise from this initiative.