2016 | Schools

MCPS Now Has To Bring PARCC Data into Classrooms

District says schools may need to change the way they teach subjects

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Now that Montgomery County Public Schools has received the results of last spring’s administration of a new standardized test, the task now is how to apply those results in the classroom, district officials say.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers showed better test scores across subjects even though it gave fresh data that the county’s achievement gap persists: Where white and Asian students exceeded state and county averages, African-American and Hispanic students fell short.

The tests give school administrators a peek at how students are learning and offer guidance on how to improve classroom instruction.

“We [might] know we need to look at math at grade five,” Janet Wilson, MCPS associate superintendent for shared accountability, said Tuesday. Part of the fifth-grade math curriculum involves fractions, but earlier grades have lessons that help students understand fractions when they get to fifth grade, she said. So it’s not just changing the instruction in one grade, but the instruction leading up to the grade, she said.

The results could be changes in curriculum, instructional strategies or professional development, Wilson said.

“So we get information back like that from PARCC, and use that to analyze our curriculum against that and make adjustments,” she said.

The results are from last spring’s administration of PARCC, the second year of a multistate effort to create tests that replace state standardized tests. Students took the exams in English/language arts in grades three through 11, and mathematics in grades three through eight. Some students also took exams in algebra and geometry. 

Parents received an eight-page guide to understanding students’ scores on Monday. Students are scored on a five-point scale: 1 means not meeting expectations, and 5 means exceeding expectations.

MCPS exceeded state averages on state standardized tests at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, according to the results released to the public Tuesday.

However, Wilson noted the PARCC results represent “only one data point.”

“There are many data points that we use to make critical decisions on curriculum and professional development,” she said.

But that data point shows African-American and Hispanic students scoring below county averages, though Wilson did say those groups did show gains, in some cases 2 percent.

“Even though it’s a 2 percent gain, it’s moving in a positive direction,” Wilson said. “I would say it means that we are moving in the right direction, and we have every desire to close that opportunity gap for our students.”

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has said closing the “opportunity gap”—he doesn’t use the term “achievement gap”—is one of his chief goals since taking over the school system July 1.

Last month, Smith said he planned to put learning data in front of principals to help them guide instruction.

“We are focusing on data—the stories that many data points tell,” Wilson said.