Providence Public Schools midterm test changes have parents … – The Providence Journal

Providence Public School District parents and students say they were caught by surprise when they found out midterm exams — which began this week — were being administered by the district instead of the teachers who were once responsible for them.
The exams will now be done online, according to PPSD spokesman Nick Domings, who said the district is “using a new digital assessment management system that makes data-driven instruction faster and more efficient.” The aim, he said, is to deliver scores immediately.
Although two parents described the exams as standardized, Domings said they “continue to be based on the curriculum being taught in each classroom” and “are not a standardized test like the [Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System] or SAT.” Domings clarified that a student taking the same course as another student would also have the same midterm.
As of Tuesday, it was unclear who was ultimately in charge of this decision − PPSD or the Rhode Island Department of Education, and families described being left in the dark.
When it comes to the district, Domings described the midterms as “a collaborative effort” that over the summer involved teachers and coaches and will still allow schools to decide how the tests are weighted.
School Board Secretary Mark Santow said he met earlier this month with Superintendent Javier Montañez and his team and learned that the point of the “midterms across the system was to generate data on student learning in math and English.”
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While Santow said the district thought school staff were aware the change was coming, he said there was “no attempt to communicate it to parents,” nor had it been shared with the School Board. That would mark the second time in recent months that the board has been left out of a major change. Late last year, the district announced three school closures, none of which had been discussed with the board.
Michele Meek, the mother of a sophomore at Classical High School, said she found out about the changes to how midterms were being administered when a friend texted to ask whether she was aware of the change. Meek then emailed her child’s teachers in math and English — the two subject areas affected — and they confirmed the change “with no warning,” Meek said.
Meek said she has “gotten absolutely no information from the district despite numerous calls and emails to several people” and received no information from the Department of Education.
Demi Egunjobi, a junior at Classical and a member of the Providence Student Union, called the change “very odd and sudden,” feeling last week that she didn’t know what would be on her math exam.
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The online system, which she said her class tried out for just 20 minutes on Friday, will require students to show their work when solving a math problem, adding an extra step as they take their tests.
“So after writing it down, we have to type what we wrote down, and then answer the questions,” Egunjobi said. “So that’s going to take longer than expected, too.”
While Egunjobi said that her class was introduced to the new technology only last week, Domings said it “was tested in various grade levels ahead of time.”
“Elementary and middle schools tested the technology last summer, with high schools following,” he said. “Teachers were provided with student-facing mini lessons as well as practice midterms that allowed students to experience or become familiar with logging into the platform, the various tools to support them during testing, and the types of items that would appear on the midterm.”
Still, not everyone felt there was enough time to study. Grace Gunter, another junior at Classical, said on Friday that while she usually has a month to prepare, this time she only had a week.
“It’s very frustrating because midterms at Classical, because there are such high standards, [are] already very difficult,” Gunter said. “But not knowing what’s going to be part of a midterm so soon … it makes me very anxious.”
Gunter’s mother, Susan, said study guides were made available less than two weeks ago, and some of the material hadn’t yet been reviewed in class, so time had to be spent discussing it.
“Instead of using valuable instruction time on new material or reviewing, it’s again teaching these kids to learn what’s on a stupid, idiotic guide that might have nothing to do with what they’ve been doing in the classroom,” Susan said. “So I just see it as a terrific waste of resources, time, and I also don’t like the position it puts teachers in who are already overburdened, burnt out. … And I’m also concerned for the students. I don’t think that this is fair to them.”
Meek said the School Board wasn’t aware of the new exams until she and others alerted it. During the state’s takeover of public schools, Meek said the board has become “a totally moot organization.”

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