PARCC scores put instruction into sharp focus for area schools

WASHINGTON — “We knew our students weren’t accomplishing what we wanted them to accomplish even before we got the PARCC scores.”

Montgomery County Interim School Superintendent Larry Bowers says the release of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC exams, underscores the need to take a look at both the curriculum — what’s being taught — and instruction — how it’s being taught.

The PARCC scores for elementary and middle school students — those in 3rd through 8th grades — were released on Tuesday. The statewide scores showed fewer than half of the students taking the math and English exams met or exceeded expectations for passing. In Montgomery County, the scores were similar for all but 8th graders taking the English exam: 50 percent of those students reached the highest levels, 4 and 5 on the PARCC tests.

In neighboring Prince George’s County, the English scores showed that roughly one-quarter of the students could reach the passing mark, and just 15 percent met or exceeded expectations on the math tests.

Prince George’s County CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said the results show “room for growth.” Both Bowers and Maxwell say the tests spotlight areas of study for administrators and teachers. Bowers told WTOP the tests raise questions: “How do we need to tweak the curriculum, how do we need to change some training for our teachers? This really helps us focus our work even more.”

Bowers and Maxwell also emphasize that the tests are a baseline: they are the first test results since the Common Core curriculum was introduced. Both administrators also point out that the Common Core curriculum is much more rigorous than those followed in the past, and the last time new tests were introduced, like the Maryland State Assessments, scores were also disappointing.

In Montgomery County, Bowers has submitted an operating budget of $2.4 billion for the next fiscal year. Included in that budget proposal is additional money for training with a focus on math and language arts.

“We need to focus much more on teacher preparation to make sure that they have the knowledge and skills to understand what kids are ‘getting,’” Bowers says, and then addressing problems when kids aren’t mastering the content being taught.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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