CCPS students trail state PARCC averages
Results show modest gains over last year
— County students made modest gains across almost all grade levels during the second year of the new state-mandated tests but continued to fall behind state passing rates, according to results released this week.
While there were some bright spots in the data, Cecil County
Public Schools Superintendent D’Ette Devine acknowledged on Thursday that the county still needs to make some changes to adjust to the new, more rigorous tests. But overall, the school system is “better than where we rank,” she said.
“We have some work to do, we understand that. But it’s not atypical of changing systematically into a different realm — and it’s a good change. The standards are strong. We just have to develop some more supports for our folks,” she said.
Maryland released districtlevel results for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) on Tuesday following the release of statewide results last month. The results cover reading and math for students in grades three through eight as well as the Algebra I, Algebra II and English 10 tests taken by high schoolers. PARCC, which was administered for the first time in 2015 and is a component of the state’s version of the federal Common Core initiative, replaced the former Maryland School Assessment (MSA) and High School
In this year’s results, 31 percent of elementary and middle school students hit standards in reading and 26.6 percent did so in math, an increase over the passing rates of 29.3 percent and 24.7 percent from last year. While middle schoolers fared better than elementary school students, every grade continued to lag behind state passing rates, ranging from as little as 1.8 percentage points to as much as 13.5 percentage points.
The county’s high school students came much closer to the state passing rates but didn’t show the same improvement as elementary and middle school students. While the county’s Algebra I passing rate essentially stayed flat — falling less than 1 percentage point to 32.8 percent — its English 10 passing rate fell by 4.1 percentage points to 33.3 percent.
Though the county’s Algebra I passing rate was less than 3 percentage points behind the state average of 35.6 percent, its English 10 passing rate was 11.1 percentage points behind the state passing rate of 44.4 percent after trailing by only about 2 percentage points last year.
The PARCC tests, which don’t yet count for graduation
or teacher evaluations, have five performance levels. Though a score of a four or five indicates college and career readiness, the state has not yet set the passing score, meaning some students who score a three could still end up passing in future years.
While county students were behind the state averages in most cases, Devine and Jeff Lawson, associate superintendent of education services, pointed out that CCPS faced many challenges when it came to the second round of PARCC tests. Chief among those was the narrow window of time the system had to analyze the results of the first round of testing and then adjust curriculum, Lawson said.
With this year’s results available much earlier than before and more resources catching up to the new Common Core curriculum, CCPS is implementing some new math and reading programs as well as additional training for teachers, Lawson said.
“We’re confident that we’ve got a plan in place that we’re going to see some improvements pretty soon,” he said.
High school The county’s high school level results were a mixed bag with many schools that had the lowest scores last year posting double-digit gains while some of the higher-performing schools
saw big drops.
High school reading passing rates dropped countywide by about 4 percentage points but among the five high schools, Elkton and Perryville both saw increases. Elkton posted a modest gain of about 2 percentage points for a 26.8 percent passing rate while Perryville saw a nearly 20 percentage point increase to 45.3 percent, the highest passing rate in the county.
Rising Sun, which had the highest passing rate last year, dropped from 47.6 percent down to 38.1 percent, while Bohemia Manor dropped from 43.4 percent to 29.9 percent and North East fell from 37.7 percent down to 28.7.
One reason for the lower scores in reading could be the change from writing essays on paper to writing them on a computer screen, Lawson said.
“We see a real disconnect with students when they write an essay in paper and pencil and when they are asked to write it online,” he said, noting that some of this has to do with the ability to concentrate as well as to translate the narrative from their head to the screen.
To combat this, CCPS is encouraging teachers to give more of their assessments on Chromebooks to give students more practice at this skill, Lawson said.
The county’s Algebra II passing rates were the fourth high-
est in the state though, with more than 50 percent of students passing, an increase over last year’s 19 percent. But part of the reason for this increase is that about 500 fewer students took the test. That’s because CCPS policy dictates that students take the first PARCC test that they’re ready for. In practice, this meant that during the first round of PARCC testing last year upperclassmen had to take the Algebra II test since the Algebra I test wasn’t around when they were freshmen, Lawson said.
The system’s Algebra I scores were still strong this year though, Lawson noted, only about 3 percentage points behind the state average. Rising Sun continued to lead all county high schools with 29.6 percent passing, increasing from 18.3 percent last year. No other school came close to hitting that passing rate though Elkton and Perryville again saw big increases. Perryville had the second highest passing rate at 12.2 percent, double its rate of 6.1 in 2015 while Elkton’s passing rate rose to 7.7 percent after less than 5 percent of students passed last year.
Bo Manor and North East meanwhile, both saw their passing rates drop with Bo Manor’s falling from 11.3 to 8.8 and North East’s falling from 14 to 8.7.
Perryville’s success was
one of the highlights of this year’s results and both Lawson and Devine are hopeful that had something to do with the school’s new A/B schedule, which it adopted last year, a year ahead of the rest of the county as part of a pilot program.
“It’s time on task over a prolonger period,” Devine said. “It helps.”
Middle school Middle school results proved more encouraging with the passing rates in many grades improving significantly over last year.
Sixth graders saw some of the biggest increases with the passing rate in reading rising nearly 6 percentage points to 28.4 and the math passing rate rising more than 2 percentage points to 30.8 percent. Eighth grade math, which last year had the lowest passing rate of any test in the county at just 10.3 percent, improved nearly 4 percentage points to 14 percent while reading rose more than 2 percentage points to 31.9 percent.
Seventh graders also posted gains with the reading passing rate rising from 30.3 to 33.6 percent and the math passing rate increasing from 26.8 to 28.4 percent.
Middle school students were also much closer to the state passing rates, particularly in math where sixth graders were just 1.8 percentage points behind while seventh and eighth
graders were 4.2 percentage points and 7.9 percentage points behind.
Elementary school As was the case last year, elementary school students overall did the worst on this year’s PARCC tests. No grade came closer than 7 percentage points to the state passing rate on either test with some grades more than 10 percentage points behind.
Every individual grade saw improvement though with the exception of fourth grade, which saw about a 3 percentage drop in reading to 30.4 percent and a 2 percentage point drop in math to 24.5 percent.
Third graders did the best of the three grades in math with 35 percent of students passing — a 5 percentage point increase from last year. Meanwhile, 30.5 percent passed reading, roughly the same amount as last year. These third graders are also the first students to have started their school careers with the Common Core curriculum, which is an encouraging sign, Devine said.
Fifth graders, meanwhile, saw about a 2 percentage point jump in reading to 31.3 percent and stayed about the same in math, rising slightly to 23 percent.
Despite this year’s results, Devine said the system is hopeful that next year’s results will be better.
Cecil County students fell further behind state averages during the second year of PARCC testing, according to results released recently.