PARCC shows signs of slow, steady progress, of­fi­cials say

Math scores im­prove, most el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school scores close with state

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

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, More de­tails on school, district and state scores can be found on­line at www.mdreport­

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