PARCC shows signs of slow, steady progress, officials say
Math scores improve, most elementary and middle school scores close with state
Charles County standardized test scores show steady improvement overall towards closing the gap with statewide scores and closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, school system officials said Wednesday.
“I am very happy that we’re meeting our goals of making steady progress,” Amy Hollstein, deputy superintendent for Charles County Public Schools, said in an interview Wednesday morning. “In many areas we are at or above the state level, and that is one of our goals, to meet or exceed the
state levels, and we are on the path toward that goal.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Maryland State Department of Education released statewide and school district results for the 2017 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, examination.
The PARCC assessment uses a five-point scale, with Level 1, the lowest score, representing Did Not Yet Meet Expectations, and Level 4 and 5 representing Met and Exceeded Expectations, respectively. School scores are based on the percentage of students scoring Level 4 or higher on the PARCC.
Charles County continues to trail behind the state in most categories, but Algebra II scores in Charles County jumped from 9.4 percent met or exceeded expectations in 2016 to 47.6 percent in 2017. Statewide, only 27.3 percent met or exceeded expectations.
Hollstein attributed the significant increase to the students who took the test and their teachers, as well as a curriculum now more in line with the Common Core standards as represented in the PARCC.
“There’s no magic to doing well on PARCC; it’s all about teaching and learning,” Hollstein said. “We are extremely excited about how well our students did. We are extremely proud of our teachers; our content folks work very hard to make sure our curriculum is matching the standards, our professional development is working and our students are succeeding.”
Clifford Eichel, director of accountability, said that because taking a math assessment in high school is a requirement, those students who took Algebra I in eighth grade, generally only an option for the highest performing students, took the Algebra II assessment last year.
Algebra I scores also increased, from 29.6 percent last year to 33.6 percent this year. High school English/Language Arts scores declined, however, from 42.2 percent in 2016 to 40.8 percent in 2017, but Eichel said the difference is negligible.
“It’s not statistically significant, but we still use that data, as it’s important to us to see if scores are going up, or if they drop a little, to see what we need to do,” Hollstein said.
English/Language Arts scores dropped even further, from 31.3 percent in 2016 to 15.8 in 2017.
Eichel attributed part of the decline to the fact that test-takers included 11th and 12th grade students, for whom the test did not count as a graduation requirement.
Students in their sophomore year during the 2016-17 school year are required to score a minimum of of 725, the minimum score for Level 3 — almost met expectations — in both English 10 and Algebra I. The requirements gradually increase until 2020, when students will have to score a minimum of 750 — the minimum for Level 4 — on both tests to meet the graduation requirements.
In Charles County, 60.7 percent of students met the minimum graduation requirement in Algebra I and 61.8 percent met the minimum graduation requirement in ELA 10.
For those students who did not meet the requirement, they will have opportunities to retake the test, with the same minimum score as the first year they took the test, or may be provided alternative means to complete graduation requirements, as detailed under Maryland law in COMAR 13A.03.02.09.
Eichel predicted that as the scores come to have more of an impact on students, the test scores will rise.
“I think as it sinks in to the students, that this is for real, we’ll continue to see more skin in the games and higher scores,” Eichel said.
With the exception of Algebra II, most high school scores trail the state, but Algebra I scores cut the gap between state and Charles County scores by about half when compared to last year.
The gap widened, however, between the state and Charles County in ELA 10 and 11 scores.
Test scores also varied quite a bit between high schools, with La Plata High School earning the highest marks in ELA 10 and Algebra I — 66.5 percent and 36.8 percent met or exceeded expectations, respectively — and Henry Lackey High School earning the lowest in ELA 10 and Algebra I — 27.2 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.
Hollstein said looking only at the highest-scoring students at each school tells only part of the story; that moving the majority of students from Level 1 to Level 2 is also an indication of measured progress, even if it’s not reflected in the Level 4 and Level 5 scores.
“When you look at PARCC scores, the natural thing to do is to compare schools, but we try very hard to have schools measure success based on their previous scores,” Hollstein said. “We’re looking to see that each school is making small, steady points of growth, and that shows they have a successful program.”
Most elementar y school math results were within two percentage points of the state average, with the largest discrepancy being in fifth and sixth grade math and English scores, where the county trailed the state by four to eight percentage points.
Charles County continues to trail neighboring St. Mary’s and Calvert counties in most grades and subjects.
“Our PARCC scores are important, and we use the scores to drive instruction, but it’s just one measure. There are many other ways that we are looking at student achievement other than the standardized test scores, but it is one important component,” Hollstein said.
Eichel said that unlike previous assessments, PARCC scores improve gradually.
It’s going to be a slow and steady climb. If you look at state scores over the past couple years, in all the PARCC states, nobody’s making the old kind of jumps where you went from 60 percent to 80 percent in one year,” Eichel said.
Hollstein said parents will receive copies of their individual students’ scores in the next few weeks.
In addition, teachers will receive copies of individual students’ scores, which will be used to work with students in setting individual goals for the school year.
Resources for understanding individual PARCC scores can be found on the CCPS website, www.ccboe.com. More details on school, district and state scores can be found online at www.mdreportcard.org.