Maryland PARCC scores: Students still struggle to pass English, math tests, but some scores tick up

WASHINGTON — Newly released test scores show that despite some modest improvements, most Maryland students still struggle to notch passing scores on annual English and math assessments.

Statewide results for the 2018 PARCC tests were presented Tuesday before the Maryland State Board of Education. (PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.)

Overall, just 41.6 percent of third- through eighth-graders and 42.4 percent of 10th-graders earned passing scores on the English test this year.

On the math test, where students have traditionally posted lower scores, just 34.1 percent of third- through eighth-grade students earned passing scores, and 31.2 percent of students earned proficient scores on the Algebra exam.

Among elementary and middle-school students, the percentage of students achieving passing scores increased by 1 percentage point on both the English and math tests.

But those narrow gains were coupled with some significant declines in test scores among older students.

On the 10th-grade English test, for example, passing scores dropped by nearly 7 percentage points — a “stark decline,” in the words of Dara Shaw, director of research for the Maryland State Department of Education.

This is the fourth year the tests, which provide a measuring stick of school performance and are now required for graduation, have been administered. Students are scored across a five-point system; scores of either 4 or 5 are considered proficient or passing.

Language arts

Scores on the language arts test for students in third through eighth grades saw modest increases from last year’s tests.The best improvement came among seventh-grade students who increased their scores by 2.6 percent. This year, 45.6 of seventh-graders were rated as proficient on the English test — among the strongest showings for any group on the English portion of the test since the tests rolled out four years ago.

Scores among students taking the 10th-grade test dropped from 49.3 percent to 42.4 percent this year.

State education officials pointed to the fact that thousands more students are taking the 10th-grade test.

Students who fail to achieve proficient scores in previous years have to to retake the tests. And the data show that repeat takers often post significantly weaker scores: Fewer than 5 percent of repeat test-takers earned passing scores on the 2018 English test. Nearly half of repeat testers scored only at Level 1 out of the possible 5.

Some school systems posted significant increases in scores among elementary and middle-school students on the language arts test.

In Washington and Carroll counties, in Western Maryland, and Dorchester County, on the Eastern Shore, the number of students reaching the proficient level on the language arts test increased by more than 5 percentage points. On the other hand, English scores in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties dropped significantly. Harford County reported a serious decrease — more than 5 percent — in the number of students notching proficient scores.

Many high schools across Maryland reported significant drops in passing scores on the 10th-grade PARCC English test.

At the high school level, just one county — Caroline County, on the Eastern Shore — reported a significant increase in the number of students with proficient scores on the 10th-grade English test.

Many more counties, however, reported significant drops in passing 10th-grade scores. In Frederick, Carroll, Howard and Prince George’s counties, the percentage of students failing to achieve passing scores dropped by up to 5 percentage points.

Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Charles, Baltimore and St. Mary’s were among the counties where passing scores dropped even more dramatically. The percentage of students in those counties with passing scores dropped by more than 5 percent.

Math scores

Math scores, on which Maryland students have traditionally scored lower, was more of a mixed bag. Overall, the number of students with passing scores in third through eighth grades increased 1 percentage point. In all, 34.1 percent of those students earned passing grades on the math test.

David Steiner, a member of the state board from Baltimore, said he was particularly concerned about Maryland’s students math scores.

“None of us can be happy with a 1 percent increase,” he said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “It’s better news obviously than a decrease but it’s nothing to open the Champagne about.”

Overall, younger students generally performed better on the math tests. On the third-grade test, 42.3 percent of students had passing scores — although that’s down slightly from the year before.

Passing math scores among fifth-graders saw the most improvement this year, increasing by 2.6 percent for a total of 38 percent of students with passing scores.

The lowest math scores overall were found on the eighth-grade test, where fewer than 16 percent of students posted passing scores. That’s down significantly from the first year the tests were given, when more than 23 percent of eighth-grade students achieved passing scores.

There was also a sharp drop in the number of students achieving proficient scores on the algebra test. The number of students with passing scores dropped more than 5 percentage points in 2018 to 31.2 percent.

On the algebra test, just two school systems — Anne Arundel and Calvert counties — reported significant increases in passing scores. Meanwhile, many school systems posted significant drops.

Montgomery, Frederick, Anne Arundel and Calvert counties — along with Baltimore City — were among the school systems that posted significant increases in the number of elementary and middle-school students achieving passing scores.

On the algebra test, just two school systems — Anne Arundel and Calvert counties — reported significant increases in passing scores. Meanwhile, many school systems posted significant drops. Scores on the algebra test in Montgomery and Prince George’s County dropped significantly. Frederick, Howard, St. Mary’s and Baltimore counties reported even more serious declines in the percentage of students with passing scores.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

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