Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
Half-True
Mancuso
When the NECAP proficiency test is re-given to the kids the second and third time, harder questions are taken out.

Eva Marie Mancuso on Friday, April 5th, 2013 in an interview on WPRI-TV's "Newsmakers"

R.I. Board of Education Chairwoman Eva Marie Mancuso says harder questions are dropped from NECAP re-tests

The plan to make high school students pass -- or at least show some improvement on -- a proficiency test before they can graduate from high school continues to cause controversy.

During the April 7 edition of the WPRI-TV program "Newsmakers," the chairwoman of the newly formed Rhode Island Board of Education, Eva Marie Mancuso, was asked about the basic test, known as the New England Common Assessment Program. High school students can it take a second or third time, if necessary, to demonstrate that they have learned enough for a diploma.

Mancuso said it was important to note that "the second and third NECAP test that's given is not the same NECAP test that they're given originally. . . . You know those really hard questions that are on the front page of the paper that we all look at and say, 'Oh my goodness, how could anybody pass these?' Those are there to weed out and to show what our excellent students are doing. So when the test is re-given to the kids the second and third time, those [harder] questions are taken out."

We were under the impression that students who had to re-take the NECAP test to demonstrate proficiency didn't take a less-challenging form of the test, so we decided to check her statement.

Mancuso's office sent us to her spokesman, Mike Trainor. While we were waiting for his response, we contacted Elliot Krieger, spokesman at the Rhode Island Department Education.

Krieger said although questions on the NECAP change from year to year -- as they do for most standardized tests -- the test is not dumbed-down if students need to retake it in the beginning of their senior year. It's the same NECAP test high school juniors are taking.

But seniors who fail to show enough improvement on the second test and need to take a third will be given a stripped-down version of the NECAP, a version that is still under development. "It will be a shorter version, have less degree of difficulty because it's single purpose will be to determine whether students at the low-scoring level have shown improvement," said Krieger. "There may be some difficult questions, but they will be fewer."

"We haven't designed it yet. It's more than a year away. But that's the plan," he said.

When Trainor got back to us, he said Krieger had the correct information and Mancuso supports that.

Our ruling

Rhode Island Board of Education Chairwoman Eva Marie Mancuso said, "When the [NECAP proficiency] test is re-given to the kids the second and third time, those [harder] questions are taken out."

Seniors who retake the NECAP should find that the second test is just as difficult as the first because it's the same test that juniors are taking.

It's only in the third test, given to seniors who fail the second, that the number of questions will be fewer and harder questions -- ones designed for more advanced students -- will be removed. At least, that's the plan.

Because her statement is only partially accurate, we rate it Half True.

(If you have a claim you’d like PolitiFact Rhode Island to check, e-mail us at politifact@providencejournal.com. And follow us on Twitter: @politifactri.)