The D.C. State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday evening to set what board members called a rigorous proficiency score in anticipation of soon-to-be released results from the new standardized tests administered last year.
The test, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — or PARCC — is considered more difficult than the city’s previous test, the DC CAS, and proficiency rates are expected to be lower.
“This is the first year of a new assessment for all of us. It sets a new baseline. We think it’s important to set that bar high,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang in an interview before the vote. But Kang said the city will also monitor progress of students at all levels.
Student performance is measured by PARCC according to five levels, with 4 being equivalent to “met expectations.” But states can also set their own proficiency levels to report publicly.
The D.C. board voted to use the national standard.
So far two states — Ohio and Arkansas — chose to set their bar for proficiency at level 3, which PARCC defines as “approached expectations.” The move boosted the proficiency rates in those states and made them harder to compare to other states, which has been a central goal of the common assessments. Both Ohio and Arkansas were criticized for inflating their scores.
Arkansas has since decided to realign its own proficiency level to 4.
Common Core supporters say the PARCC test gives parents a more accurate view of whether students are prepared for college and careers after high school — because they are more closely aligned to the skills they are expected to have post-graduation.
Last school year, 5 million students in 11 states and the District of Columbia took the PARCC assessments in math and reading.
The city is poised to release its first round of PARCC results for high school students next week. Results for elementary- and middle-school aged students are expected to be released in November.
Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson said she would not want the state board to set a lower bar, even if proficiency rates are likely to be very low in many schools.
“There are political and optical reasons why you could choose a ‘3,’ but for me as a parent of a kid, if they still have to go to college and take remedial classes, I feel like the school system has not met its goal,” she said.
“I think this is our chance to just tell the truth one time and say, ‘This is where we are. Let’s work up from here.’ ”