High stakes testing graduation requirements in Rhode Island


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Current Campaign: High Stakes Testing

The ACLU of RI is working with student and education groups to stop high-stakes testing from keeping otherwise qualified students from graduating. In 2014, Rhode Island is scheduled to begin using standardized testing as a zero-sum graduation requirement. The statewide scores for the NECAP showed that two in five of Rhode Island 11th graders are in jeopardy of not graduating from high school next year. The ACLU is calling for the elimination of the test as the sole determinant of graduation eligibility and the institution of responsible, fair and indiscriminate graduation requirements.


The ACLU of RI has successfully challenged open government violations by the Rhode Island Board of Education in two instances related to the "high stakes testing" requirement.

In February 2014, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Luis Matos ruled that the R.I. Board of Education violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when it failed to properly respond to a petition by the ACLU of RI and sixteen other organizations to do away with the Board’s “high stakes testing” graduation requirement. The lawsuit, Providence Student Union v. RI Board of Education, argued that the Board had an obligation under state law, which it ignored, to consider the proposal and either reject it or initiate a formal rule-making process to consider its adoption. Judge Matos gave the Board 30 days to respond to the petition in accordance with the APA.

The second case, Egan v. RI Board of Education, was an open meetings lawsuit against the R.I. Board of Education over its plans in August to meet in a private retreat, closed to the public and the media, in order to hear from invited “experts” on the issue of its “high stakes testing” requirement for high school seniors. The ACLU argued that allowing such a private meeting would significantly undermine the open meetings law’s purpose.  In issuing a preliminary injunction against the planned private discussion of the issue, R.I. Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini agreed with the ACLU that allowing such a discussion to take place in private would significantly undermine the open meetings law’s purpose.

Legislative Activity

With almost 1,600 high school seniors at risk of not getting a diploma this spring because of the NECAP standardized test, the General Assembly is considering legislation strongly supported by the ACLU that would ban or delay the use of standardized tests for high stakes purposes. As the ACLU has testified, using a standardized testing as a graduation requirement only serves to arbitrarily prevent students from graduating high school, diverts scarce school resources to a focus on test preparation, and has a significant adverse impact on vulnerable student populations.

In 2013, Representative Eileen Naughton and Senator Harold Metts sponsored legislation, supported by the ACLU but opposed by the RI Department of Education, banning the use of standardized tests for high stakes purposes. (H 5277S 0117).  Although the General Assembly did not pass the bill, on the last day of the session they approved a joint resolution requesting the Board of Education to delay implementation of the high stakes testing requirement and instead consider a weighted compilation of state assessment (H 5277AS 1047).  The city of Providence and dozens of advocacy groups have also expressed opposition to the current RIDE policy. 

Related Documents

Related News Releases

  • February 26, 2014 - National Experts Submit Legislative Testimony Against “High Stakes Testing”
  • February 14, 2014 - Court Rules R.I. Board of Education Again Violated Open Government Laws
  • February 13, 2014 - Groups Challenge RI Dept. of Education’s “Rosy” View of NECAP Results for Seniors
  • January 23, 2014 - ACLU Claims High Stakes Testing “Waiver” Policy for High School Seniors is in Disarray
  • January 9, 2014 - Department of Education Acknowledges that High Stakes Testing Does Not Measure College Readiness
  • September 24, 2013 - ACLU Asks Court to Order Board of Education to Reconsider High Stakes Testing Issue in Public
  • September 16, 2013 - Again, ACLU Goes to Court Over State Board of Education Secrecy in High Stakes Testing Debate
  • September 6, 2013 - Community Organizations Appeal to Governor Ahead of Board of Education's Vote on High Stakes Testing
  • August 6, 2013 -Judge Bars State Board of Education from Discussing “High Stakes Testing” in Secret 
  • August 2, 2013 -Statements on Filing of Egan v. RI Board of Education
  • August 2, 2013 - ACLU Sues State Board of Education Over Plans to Discuss “High Stakes Testing” in Secret
  • July 24, 2013 - ACLU Sues State Board of Education for Failing to Address High Stakes Testing Policy
  • June 24, 2013 - Community Organizations File Formal Petition to Amend High School Graduation Regulations
  • May 21, 2013 - Groups Continue to Push for End of "High Stakes Testing"
  • Feb 26, 2013 – 4,200 Students in Jeopardy of Not Graduating from High School Due to High Stakes Test
  • Oct 05, 2012 - Dozens Call for an End to “High Stakes Testing”
  • Feb 23, 2012 - Standardized Test Results Show That “High Stakes Testing” Would Have “Devastating Consequences”
  • Feb 23, 2012 - Comments from Participants in the High Stakes Testing News Conference
  • Feb 08, 2012 - Advocacy Groups Supporting Legislation to Halt Use of “High Stakes Testing” On Rhode Island Students
  • Mar 03, 2011 - Groups Call on Board of Regents to Postpone Vote on High Stakes Testing Graduation Regulations
  • Feb 04, 2011 - Proposed Graduation Requirements Pushed Back to 2014
  • Jan 24, 2011 - New High School Diploma Requirements Likely to Create a “Caste System,” Stigmatize At-Risk Students