In October, New Mexico public schools will receive their first Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test results, but they have already been warned by New Mexico’s Secretary of Education Hannah Skandera that the scores are going to be low.
The Albuquerque Journal’s Kim Burgess says other states that have started using PARCC have received 20% to 40% drops in “proficient” ratings for students as compared to the former Standards Based Assessments ratings. Skandera says New Mexico will see similar ratings drops.
“We don’t know where New Mexico is going to fall on that spectrum, but it is fair to say we adopted those same higher standards, so we can anticipate and be prepared,” she said. “The dip won’t be because our kids got worse or our teachers aren’t teaching as well – it is because we raised the bar.”
Skandera explains that scores will rise as PARCC becomes more familiar and as student performance improves. She notes that Kentucky saw a 40 percentage point drop in proficiency when it began administering PARCC four years ago, plummeting from about 70% proficiency to about 30%. But now, the rates have jumped back up to about 60%.
Not only is the test different, but the format has changed as well. The new test is taken online and asks students to show their work and explain how they got their answers. Skandera agrees that this format is more realistic than the multiple choice style of the former test.
The whole idea for the switch was to enable educators to get a picture of whether students are ready for college and/or careers. Colleges and universities are supportive of the standards and the higher expectations for students.
The process for analyzing PARCC results has been extensive. Administrators have set expectations and established proficiency guidelines. To make the transition to the new assessment easier, juniors in high school are able to pass the test with a score of three on the five-point grading scale. Skandera says students will eventually have to attain a four.
To graduate, high school juniors must show the required proficiency in five subjects, but there are also opportunities for re-testing and alternate routes to acquiring a diploma. And because of over-testing complaints, Skandera says the PARCC test for all grades will be 90 minutes shorter for next year.
“Change is always hard, especially when you are raising the bar, but it is the right thing,” she said. “There is no downside. It is the right thing to do. It can be painful when you have to get honest with where you are.”
She continued by saying that Albuquerque Public Schools must abide by state and federal law which require that 95% of students who are able to complete certain assessments take those assessments. If schools do not conform to this benchmark there is a risk that funding will be lost and school ratings could drop.
PARCC has detractors, however. Many parents and educators have said that students are being over-tested. Some school districts, in response to this criticism, have made opt-out forms available online for those who do not want their children to participate in the standardized testing, according to The Associated Press.