District PARCC scores exceed state averages

From Press and Staff Reports

The Mississippi Department of Education on Nov. 5 released high school results from the first assessments that measured Mississippi’s students’ progress toward the academic goals laid out in the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards, which were designed to ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need in jobs and college.

As anticipated, student performance dropped from previous years’ performance levels in Algebra I and English II. For the 2014-15 school year, assessments from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers replaced the Subject Area Testing Program.

Statewide, nearly half of high school students (49 percent) met or exceeded expectations for English II and less than a third of students (27 percent) met or exceeded expectations in Algebra I. However, about 2,500 middle school students took the Algebra I test and 70.9 percent of those students scored at the top two performance categories.

“The PARCC assessments were more demanding than previous state tests. The test results today mark a new starting point for our students and we expect test scores to increase over time. These tests required students to solve problems and explain their answers at a much higher level than previous state tests that were mainly multiple choice,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

Levels explained
Wright also praised students and teachers. “I’m proud of our students who performed as well as they did on new assessments with this level of rigor, and of our teachers who have worked incredibly hard over the past few years to help students reach these higher standards. Our teachers should be commended for getting our students off to a strong start on their journey to college and the workforce,” she said.

According to PARCC, the students scoring at Level 4 or 5, the top two performance categories, are meeting or exceeding expectations. The scores suggest that students have a thorough understanding of grade-level content and are on the right track to being ready for college-level coursework.

Students scoring at Level 3 are approaching expectations and know a significant amount of content, but may need additional assistance in mastering all aspects of the standards. Students scoring a Level 1 or 2 need more assistance in learning the content and are in need of greater supports.

English II
The statewide results from PARCC provide parents and educators information on one measure of determining whether students are learning what they need to learn. When combined with student grades and teacher reports, annual assessments provide important information about student progress.

Like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Mississippi assessments now require students to reach a higher bar than on former state tests. As with any change in standards and assessments, there is a period of transition as students adjust to higher expectations.

School districts performed better on the English II assessment, with 61 districts exceeding the state average in Levels 4 and 5, including Webster County. A study was conducted several years ago where Mississippi’s previous English language arts standards were compared to the more challenging standards for college and careers.

“The differences were the higher standards placed a greater emphasis on writing and on reading more complex texts. I think our teachers did a wonderful job of increasing the level of rigor in ELA,” Wright said.

Algebra I
In Algebra I, about 55 school districts met or exceeded the state average in Levels 4 and 5, including Webster County. An alignment study between Mississippi’s previous math standards and standards for college and careers showed the standards were significantly different.

Mississippi high school students were asked to apply their mathematical understanding in new ways that they haven’t necessarily done before, Wright said.

“Mississippi’s current standards dive deeply into understanding math concepts at an early grade and challenge students to think critically and apply their mathematical knowledge. They are much more challenging than in previous years,” she said.

Wright commended districts for their efforts in identifying middle school students across the state who could be successful in Algebra I. Teachers also evaluated the standards to locate gaps in content and worked to provide content that would prepare middle school students for higher standards.

District, high school results
Following is performance-level data for the Webster County School District, Eupora High School and East Webster High School by percentages (rounded off), with state averages in parentheses after district levels:
Algebra I
District Levels 1-3: 62 percent (73)
District Levels 4-5: 38 percent (27)
EHS Levels 1-3: 57 percent
EHS Levels 4-5: 43 percent
EWHS Levels 1-3: 69 percent
EWHS Levels 4-5: 31 percent
English II
District Levels 1-3: 40 percent (51)
District Levels 4-5: 60 percent (49)
EHS Levels 1-3: 36 percent
EHS Levels 4-5: 64 percent
EWHS Levels 1-3: 43 percent
EWHS Levels 4-5: 57 percent

New test will replace PARCC
The MDE has offered numerous opportunities for professional development to teachers since the standards were adopted five years ago. Wright said that with continued professional development for teachers, students could move up to meeting expectations over time with the proper support and assistance.

“We are continuing to support teachers across our districts through professional development on the standards so that they can further strengthen instruction,” Wright said.

In the 2015-16 school year, Mississippi will be administering the Mississippi Assessment Program – which will replace the PARCC test. MAP will continue to provide meaningful feedback to parents, teachers and students, and let them know students’ progress on the path to college and careers.

“We remain committed to student success and anticipate a smooth transition because the assessment will be aligned to the same standards for college and careers,” said Dr. J.P. Beaudoin, MDE chief of research and development. “We will make sure our MAP assessments provide critical information to students, teachers and parents.”

MDE plans to release results for grades 3-8 on Dec. 17. Districts were scheduled to receive individual paper take-home reports for high school students in early November, while student score reports for elementary and middle school students are expected to arrive in districts by early December.

For more information about the new assessments, parents should visit
http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/MCCRS/parcc.