By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
Parents should get letters this week explaining their child’s results on the controversial PARCC tests taken in February and March.
On Monday, Superintendent Jorden Schiff told the Hillsborough school board that the district had received high school data, but not 3rd through 8th grades, which was expected imminently.
Individual student reports and a letter from Lisa Antunes, assistant superintendent for curriculum, describing the purpose of the tests and how to read the results, will go out on Tuesday. By mid-January all building principals will hold meetings with their school community, said Dr. Schiff.
The results in math and English arts will show results as “categories” of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not yet meeting grade level expectations” and 5 being “exceeding grade level.”
Parents will see their child’s results compared to the school, district and state averages.
Dr. Schiff said a good place for parents to seek more explanation would be understandingthescore.org, a website by the company that created the PARCC, an acronym for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The test is to determine if children are “on track” for their future.
In an overview of test results, Dr. Schiff said he questioned the validity and reliability of data from the high school, which saw only about one-half of students take the test. Parents could choose to withdraw their students from the test, and there were efforts by several groups to recommend refusing, for various reasons.
In February, parents asked the board not to give the test, citing the pressure of many days of testing.
The PARCC was unique in that it was the first assessment test taken on a computer, which may have influenced students’ anxieties.
Hillsborough scores were better than the state except at grades where there was a high percentage of students refusing to take the tests, said Dr. Schiff.
Hillsborough has 550 to 600 students at each grade level. Most elementary and intermediate students took the tests, but the participation numbers drop in grades 8 to 11. An estimated one-half — 286 of about 575 — of 11th graders took the test.
PARCC replaces the Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (ASK) in elementary grades and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).
This first year’s results will serve as a benchmark against which to compare improvements or fallbacks in tests in future years. The data can be broken down for study in many ways — like gender, race, ethnicity and those in the reduced or free lunch program — down to individual assessment, he said.
District math scores are above state average, except in grade 8 math, where they appear weak, the superintendent said, because more than half of the grade’s students take algebra or geometry, he said. Results will show up in those test subcategories.
The PARCC will become part of the graduation protocol, the superintendent said, and become one of a menu of possibilities that must be passed before a student can graduate from high school. Other options are SAT or ACT tests commonly taken by college-bound students.
Dr. Schiff said the district must decide how to use the PARCC data and learn how it can help identify strengths and gaps in the educational program. The district must learn how it should influence teachers’ work, and decide what resources are needed to address shortcomings, he said.
For now, it’s difficult to develop goals and changes based on incomplete performance, specifically at the upper middle and high school levels, the superintendent said.
By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor