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Rhode Island elites stumped by standardized test for teens

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A group of high school students from Providence, Rhode Island protest a standardized test now required for graduation. (Andrew Dickerman/Providence Journal)

Several high-powered adults in Rhode Island are nervously awaiting their scores on a standardized test typically given to teenagers.

According to the Washington Post, dozens of city officials, professors and legislators agreed to take a test based on the New England Common Assessment Program on Saturday, with results expected Tuesday.

Real students designed the experiment, which took questions from past NECAPs, and persuaded the adults try it for themselves.

The challenge is part of a larger effort by the Providence Student Union to challenge the state's emphasis on "high-stakes testing". They want the Rhode Island Department of Education to reverse a decision to make the NECAP a requirement for graduation.

"Students are trying to push back against the idea that a single test score can measure the entirety of a person's value, worth, and future success by inviting objectively successful people to take the test themselves and see how they do," said student union leader Aaron Regunberg.

The adults who participated on the weekend were tested on their math skills, the subject students believed most likely to stump them, and most walked out feeling uneasy.

"I was good at math. I took trig, statistics, pre-calculus," Rep. Larry Valencia, who has a degree in chemistry, told the Providence Journal after writing the exam.

"I think the test is very unfair. It doesn't represent what the average high school student should know."

Some officials who took the test before Saturday, like Rhode Island state Sen. Gayle Goldin, already know they did poorly.

Goldin, who has a master's degree and said she frequently works with numbers, described the test as "extremely hard."

"I would much rather hire students who have the creativity and strategic thinking to pull together this effort ... [than students who pass] the NECAP with flying colors," she said.

Another state senator, Adam Satchell, criticized standardized tests more generally, arguing that a one-size-fits-all model cannot properly assess twenty-first century skills.

He is not alone in saying this form of assessment is all but dead as a proper measure of potential for success.

What do you make of the protests staged by the youth of Providence?

Do you think that standardized testing is an antiquated tool? If not, how important should the results be?

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' replies.)

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