The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test measures student academics as part the Common Core initiative. Ten states participate in the PARCC testing, including Colorado, which administered the exam to 800,000 students.
Common Core principals were formed by higher education professionals and state governors because of a concern that high school graduates were not prepared enough for college or careers.
Last March, grades 3-9 were tested on English language arts, math, and science. Only math and English scores were available as of press time, and grades 5 and 9 were not available for math.
In math, three grade levels out of five showed improvement over the previous year.
In 2016, 38.2 percent of third-graders met or exceeded expectations for math, up from 21.6 percent who met that standard in 2015. The state average for third-grade math is 38.9 percent for 2016.
Seventh-grade math scores improved from 13.3 percent met or exceed expectations in 2015 to 17.2 percent in 2016. The state average for seventh- grade math is 26.7 percent for 2016.
And in eighth-grade math, scores improved from 14.6 percent met or exceeded to 18.4 percent. The state average for eighth-grade math is 20.4 percent for 2016.
Fourth- and sixth-grade math scores dropped in 2016, going from 13 percent to 8.3 percent, and 13.2 percent to 8.7 percent, respectively. The state average for fourth-grade math in 2016 was 33.3 percent met or exceeded expectations.
A bright spot“Our third grade is rocking it,” said Dolores elementary principal Gary Livick.
Third-grade teachers Meg Neeley and Angelo Lowe saw a significant jump in student performance in math, just missing the state average, and they exceeded the state average for English scores, representing the best PARCC test score for the school.
Of their Spring 2016 class, 40.4 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, compared with 28.3 percent the previous year. The 2016 state average for third-grade English testing is 37.4 percent meeting or exceeding expectations.
The only other bright spot for English was the fifth-grade class, which improved from 14.9 percent met or exceeded expectations to 17.5 percent. The state average for fifth- grade English is 41.2 percent met or exceeded expectations.
Five grades – 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th – dropped in English test scores compared with 2015 and were all well below the state average.
Fourth-grade English scores dropped from 27.1 percent met or exceeded expectations to 24.6 percent in 2016, compared with a state average of 43.9 percent.
Sixth-grade English scores dropped from 23.2 percent met or exceeded expectations to 18.2 percent in 2016, compared with a state average of 38.3 percent.
Seventh-grade English scores dropped from 27.7 percent met or exceeded expectations to 6.9 percent in 2016, compared with a state average of 41 percent.
Eighth-grade English scores dropped from 36 percent met or exceeded expectations to 23.7 percent in 2016, compared with a state average of 41.6 percent.
And ninth-grade English scores dropped from 50 percent met or exceeded expectations to 25 percent in 2016, compared with a state average of 37.2 percent.
Test is a limited toolThe Dolores superintendent and school principals were critical of the PARCC test. They said it has limited statistical value due to low participation, has delayed results that are difficult to act on, and does not track individual student growth. Parents can opt out their children from the PARCC test.
“From a 30,000-foot-level, statistically as a whole, PARCC scores are not valid because less than the required 95 percent participation has been reached in any grade level or content area,” said Superintendent Scott Cooper. “The Colorado Department of Education has not determined how to use this data to grade schools and districts because low participation rates create statistically invalid data.”
While school officials said the PARCC test represents a “piece of the puzzle” in assessing student and teacher performance, other assessment tests are more effective.
Principals and teachers heavily rely on the NW Education Assessment tests, given three times per year to benchmark academic improvement.
“We get the results back right away, and teacher, parents and students can see what areas they need improvement in,” said secondary principal Jenifer Hufman.
The NWEA test is seen as more effective because it tracks individual student performance year to year and compares it to 10 million students nationwide, instead of just Colorado.
“This data helps us make necessary adjustments to instruction, develop individual learning plans and gage how well our students are performing as a whole,” Cooper said.