One Set of PARCC Test Results, Two Different Descriptions in Ohio
Ohio became the first state to release preliminary scores from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers on Monday. But the best way to describe the results depends on who you ask.
A presentation from the state education department reported that according to the five performance-level descriptors required by Ohio law, the majority of students on both the math and English/language arts exams (which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards) scored proficient or better on the state exams, as shown by the chart below:
One major caveat: These results only reflect results from PARCC tests taken online, and just 64 percent of Ohio students took PARCC tests online. The department did say it expects the remaining results from paper-and-pencil tests to be comparable.
In 2013-14, on state exams not aligned with the common core, scores were significantly higher. For example, on those 2013-14 exams, 80 percent of 3rd grade students scored proficient or better in math, compared to the 65 percent who achieved that distinction on PARCC in 2014-15, according to the state. (Students in the 3rd grade did not take the PARCC English/language arts exam in the spring.)
The performance descriptors used in the chart were adopted unanimously by the state board, also on Monday. However, PARCC would describe the results differently.
As Patrick O'Donnell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, the students Ohio is describing as "proficient" PARCC instead would call "approaching expectations" on the exams. Students who "met expectations" in PARCC's judgment Buckeye State standards are "advanced" by Buckeye State standards, and those who in PARCC's eyes "exceeded expectations" are "accelerated" according to Ohio.
So for example, on the 4th grade English/language arts exam in PARCC, only 37 percent of students met or exceeded PARCC's expectations for performance on the exam. Yet Ohio will report that 69 percent of students were proficient or better on the test. At most grade levels, just over a third of students met or exceeded PARCC's expectations for the exam.
If someone is "approaching expectations" could that student also be called "proficient"? That's up for debate. However, the different descriptions serve as a reminder that while PARCC can create and score its test, state are ultimately in the drivers' seat when it comes to how these scores are packaged and presented to the public.
Last week, the PARCC consortium set cut scores for its exams—initially, the consortium didn't reveal most of those cut scores, but eventually backtracked and released them.