Rhode Island set to release PARCC scores Tuesday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Eight months after Rhode Island public school students took their first crack at the state’s new standardized test, education officials are scheduled to make the scores public this week.

The long-awaited results for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam will be released Tuesday afternoon, but officials have already signaled that scores will reveal a large chunk of students throughout the state lack proficiency in English or mathematics.

“Will results be tough? Yeah, they’re going to be tough,” Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month.

“It just means we’ve raised the bar to prepare our kids for the future and we have some exciting work to do over the coming years.”

Wagner has scheduled a media briefing on the results for Monday morning. Local school district leaders have had access to the scores since last week.

Rhode Island joined 11 other states and Washington, D.C., last school year in administering the PARCC exam, which focuses on mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) and requires students to use critical thinking skills and explain their answers. The PARCC also puts a much larger emphasis on writing skills than the previous test, the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP.

Rhode Island moved from the NECAP to the PARCC exam because the new test aligns closer with the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations for what students should have mastered over the course of time at various grade levels. The Common Core has been adopted in 43 states including Rhode Island, as well as in Washington, D.C.

Federal law requires public school students to take standardized assessments annually in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Schools are required to have at least 95% of eligible students complete the tests in order to demonstrate “adequate yearly progress,” a measure of whether students are meeting academic goals established by each state.

Beginning with the class of 2020, Rhode Island will use results on the PARCC as part of the state’s high school graduation requirements, although no cut score has been established. Wagner has repeatedly said he’s also open to using a wide array of assessments to determine whether students are ready to receive a diploma.

Rhode Island will be the final PARCC state to release test results, which will place students into one of five levels, with level one signaling that a student did not meet expectations and level five meaning they exceeded expectations. Actual scores will range from 650 to 850 for the math and English sections of the exam.

In Massachusetts, which is widely considered one of the top-performing states in the country when it comes to education, about 60% of students who took the PARCC met expectations in English and 52% met expectations in math. Only about half of the state’s school districts took the exam, with the others continuing to use the MCAS. (Massachusetts education officials are still debating whether to move the whole state toward the PARCC.)

In Maryland, another state that has won accolades for education performance, only 31% of high school students who took exam met the standard for Algebra 1 and 40% met the standard for 10th-grade English. One state Board of Education told the Baltimore Sun the results were a “cold shower.”

In Illinois, between 26% and 36% of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded expectations on the math portion of the exam, while between 33% and 38% earned a passing score on the English section, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Three states – Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas – have decided they won’t administer the PARCC exam during the current school year.

While Rhode Island plans to release state and district-level data Tuesday, individual student results will be distributed over the next month, according to a memo Wagner released Nov. 6. RIDE will also hold several data-analysis workshops for school districts in the coming weeks.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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