Leonardtown, MD — Parents and guardians of high school students in Maryland have started to receive report cards for their children that show results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests administered last school year. The tests measured performance for English Language Arts (ELA) 10 and Algebra I and II.

The report cards will show what level the student is at in each curriculum area, with Level 5 “Exceeded Expectations” and Level 4 “Meeting Expectations” and the three lower levels showing need for improvement. The report cards show up, down and level arrows to designate the five levels.

The tests are intended to show the students proficiency to:
• Demonstrate independence, perseverance;
• Construct arguments, comprehend, critique, and support with evidence; and
• Use resources, strategies, and tools to demonstrate strong content knowledge.

The St. Mary’s County results of the tests, which at this time are “no fault” for the students, were revealed Nov. 10 to the school board. While some members expressed delight at the skills the tests were measuring, there was concern in general about whether the tests were doing the job.

There is special concern that Maryland is only one of seven or eight states that have adopted the PARCC testing as their way of implementing the federal Race to the Top Initiative. And with the tests hitting parents’ mailboxes, there is also the fear of a pushback by the legislature next year after so much time and effort has been expended by local school systems to get the system up and running.

“My fear is we are going down and our path will be pulled out from under us,” said board member Cathy Allen.

In response to concerns such as those recently heard by President Obama about student over-testing, there will be only one test this school year instead of two..

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Maher presented examples of some of the questions asked on last year’s tests. One had students dissect minority and majority opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court. That required students to click and drag quotes from the justices into their answers. Test monitors were not able to assist students having technical trouble. That raised concern from several school board members about all students having the tools and skills to do that.

Allen said, “My frustration is the state set up a test well ahead of available resources.”

School Board Chairman Karen Bailey said, “Maybe instructionally this makes sense,” but she added, “The student is flying solo.”

But other members liked the rigor of the tests and what they were trying to accomplish. Member Rita Weaver said it involved “a higher level of thing.” She said, “It is not just rote memorizing anymore. Most careers require you to think beyond.”

Member Mary Washington said she felt certain the school system’s students can rise to the level. “Our students are ready. They are doing a lot of this already.”
Middle and elementary school scores will be released next month and other data, such as graduation rates, after the first of the year. Washington said at that time, “We can determine ‘where do we go from here’?”

St. Mary’s results show county students performing at Level 4 and 5 in Algebra and Algebra II above the state average but below in English Language Arts.
According to Dr. Maher, the school system’s next steps include providing professional staff development in the areas measured by PARCC and “continue to enhance technology infrastructure.”

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com