WEST SPRINGFIELD – West Springfield joined school districts across the state in opting to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Grades 3 through 8 took the exam instead of Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), and Superintendent Michael Richard said the results would help the district moving forward.
PARCC is broken into five grading categories – Exceeded Expectations, Met Expectations, Approached Expectations, Partially Met Expectations and Did Not Meet Expectations – compared to the four areas of MCAS.
In combined results, 53 percent and 54 percent of all West Springfield students scored either Level 4 or 5, the two highest levels, in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math testing respectively. The average for the state in ELA was 60 percent and 52 percent in Math.
On the other side, 7 percent of students did not meet expectations in English Language Arts and 5 percent in Math. That state average was 6 percent for both tests.
“We struggled, I would say, with relative comparison to the rest of the state. We certainly had in ELA in all grades, we saw just over half of our kids at level 4 or 5, so that was good news,” Richard said. “We also saw in math about the same number of students performed at Level 4 or 5, but every time you look at the Level 1 results, when 7 or 5 percent of students, depending on what tests, are scoring in that level achievement, its disconcerting to us. We had 7 percent of ELA students not meeting expectations and 5 percent of math not meeting, it’s hard for us to process, but the information is good for us to continue to set goals to move forward.”
Richard said there are a number of factors that play into the results, including “the novelty of the test,” the arrangement and how it’s timed. He also said middle school students took the assessment on [Google] Chromebooks instead of paper, which was “a little bit of a change.”
Despite this, Richard said one of the incentives to choosing PARCC over MCAS was that the district would be “held harmless” by state education officials in its results, meaning the test results could improve their level but could not hurt it.
Regardless, the district is using the results from its first bout with PARCC to shape curriculum.
“For us, the important thing is that we take this opportunity to continue to identify areas where we can grow and where we can also find the areas where we can celebrate,” Richard said. “Some of our schools performed very well on PARCC., some not as well. It’s not a competition to either, except the reality is the results vary, and we have to apply what we’ve learned from the schools that did better to those other schools and apply it to all of them.”
Though the state Board of Education recently voted to accept an adopted version of the MCAS, which will be implemented by 2017, Richard said having tried PARCC will help students in the future. He said the new MCAS is a merger of the two tests by “ramping up the rigor of assessment with PARCC and applying it to MCAS.”
The district, he said, will be ready for it.
“Our faculty, staff and students are all prepared to go in any direction necessary,” Richard said. “The learning that happened as a result of piloting PARCC will certainly benefit us in the long run.”