Last year, MCPS students in grades three through eight replaced their Maryland standardized tests (Maryland State Assessment) with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, a new set of exams that tests English and Language Arts and Math. According to the PARCC website, the PARCC is a consortium of states working to employ a standard set of K-12 assessments to determine “whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.” The tests are significantly harder than the old MCPS standardized tests.
MCPS high school student took the Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and English 10 exams. On Algebra 1, 39% of students earned a 4 or a 5, the scores demonstrating college readiness. Only 31% of students who took the Algebra 2 PARCC and 44% of students who took the English 10 PARCC received a 4 or 5. Despite the seemingly disappointing scores, MCPS students did better than the Maryland average, even when the results were controlled for income.
Montgomery County did well compared to Maryland and other states, but the PARCC tests again highlight the huge disparity in MCPS and the country between students of different incomes and races. On the Algebra 1 PARCC, 57% of White students and 67% of Asian students received a 4 or a 5, compared to only 17% of both Black and Hispanic students. The results were similar on the Algebra 2 and English exams.
The results were disappointing all around. MCPS Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers sent a letter to high school parents to telling them that “these new tests are much more rigorous and ask students to demonstrate what they know in a variety of ways.”
Students last year were unimpressed by the new tests. Montgomery County schools bought new laptops specifically for the PARCC, though they are also being used in in social studies classes. “Chromebooks are unnecessary right now, but I know that at some point school’s going to have to move towards being more tech-based,” said Anna Ou, a senior at Montgomery Blair High School.
In addition to the chromebooks, the tests disrupted class schedules for three weeks. “There was a two week period of my life wherein I did not attend a single Discrete math class. This was because of PARCC testing, and negatively impacted my education. Furthermore, during PARCC testing days, the classes were much longer – while my attention span was not,” explained a student who wanted to remain anonymous.
The PARCC tests themselves were long, and perceived by many students to be tedious. In addition, students found a lot of the questions to be confusing. Griffin Badalamente, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School, took the Algebra 2 and English 10 PARCC tests last year. “The PARCC tests made me think in a very weird way that I was not used to… and there were a lot of questions that relied on other questions,” he stated.
Students from different MCPS schools had very different outcomes on the tests. Walter Johnson, Churchill, Whitman, and Richard Montgomery appeared to be the top scoring schools.
MCPS does not release statistics when less than 5% of students are in a category, so some data is unavailable.
Some students thought that standardized testing as a whole was moving in the wrong direction. “[Testing] can be helpful in measuring changes in performance but sometimes too many is too many,” Ou added. Robby Fleischman, a senior at Blair, had a problem with the concept of standardized tests as a whole. “Too much emphasis is placed on the tests… leading to a situation where the tests are unable to even attempt to measure anything other than performance on standardized tests,” he said.
The PARCC results highlighted what people already knew: there is a huge disparity in scores of students of different socioeconomic backgrounds. The actual results on college readiness are less conclusive: it is yet to be seen whether such a small percentage of students will continue to score as college-ready as the tests become the MCPS standard.
The full results of the PARCC tests in MCPS can be found here.
Article by Moco Student Staff Writer Yaelle Goldschlag of Montgomery Blair High School