DC Releases Results of New Standardized Test

dc test scores

From a press release:

“Today, District of Columbia education leaders announced a new baseline for how high school students are performing in DC. As part of its commitment to education reform, the District recently implemented the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

These annual assessments, which replace the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (or DC CAS), measure students’ proficiency in English and math. The District moved to the PARCC assessments because they more accurately measure students’ progress toward acquiring the skills and knowledge needed for success in college and in the workplace.

Eleven states along with DC administered the PARCC assessment for the first time last spring, and the high school results are now in. On English II, 25 percent of students met or exceeded expectations. An additional 17 percent of students approached expectations. On math, 10 percent of students met or exceeded expectations. An additional 24 percent of students approached expectations.

More detailed results can be found at osse.dc.gov/parcc

“Knowing where students stand on their path to college and careers better equips educators, students and their families to prepare for the future,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “As we continue to build pathways to the middle class, we will use the PARCC results to ensure that our students have the skills they need to succeed after graduation.”

PARCC asks students to demonstrate their knowledge and apply their skills in areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving.

“These results set a new baseline and reflect the higher standards the District adopted to ensure students achieve 21st century college and career readiness,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “Just as scores improved on the DC CAS over time, the District expects scores to improve on the PARCC assessment.”

The District of Columbia transitioned to the Common Core State Standards in 2012 as part of a comprehensive plan to raise expectations and prepare students to succeed in college and career. The move to higher standards and aligned assessments has been widely supported by kindergarten to grade 12 educators, higher education leaders, legislators, and the business community.

The District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education will release statewide and school-level PARCC results for grades 3 through 8 next month. Student-level score reports will be shared with parents and educators in December. In addition to reviewing students’ individual score reports, parents can access online tools to help bolster student skills, as well as learn more about how to use the results to inform conversations with teachers.

While no single test shows a complete picture of achievement, annual assessments provide important information about student strengths and areas for improvement, especially when combined with student grades and teacher reports. Parents and teachers can use this information to make sure students get the help they need to succeed.

To support teachers and schools, the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education continues to work with local education agencies to provide professional development and ensure every school has the resources it needs to support struggling students. For more information about PARCC, parents and educators can visit osse.dc.gov/parcc.

47 Comment

  • Wow, 90% did not meet expectations in math and english?!?! That is pitiful.

    • justinbc

      Hey at least they were in school taking the test rather than out mugging someone, right?

      • Are you serious?? DC continues to fail our students and this is how you react? I understand that crime is still a major issue in the District but these results are heartbreaking. I think it is safe to say there is some connection between the two.

        • +1 ^^ for real, it’s amazing how many ppl make ignorant comments like this, failing to see the correlations between education, quality of life, and crime rates. i’m glad that DC is raising standards (better than lowering them just to have “improved” test score numbers), but DCPS needs to react by providing more support for schools and teachers. obviously this won’t come close to solving the problem but we have to at least give these kids a better shot than they’re getting now

    • you have to look at the demographic breakdown to fully appreciate the results. The disparities throughout the city are no less apparent in the schools

      • HaileUnlikely

        Yes. Also, although I already generally understood that students from higher-income families were significantly under-represented in most if not all DCPS schools, these data show some downright shocking stuff: 13 of the DCPS high schools here, including Cardozo, Coolidge, Dunbar, Eastern, Roosevelt, and Woodson, literally every single student who took these tests was classified as “economically-disadvantaged.” (At Columbia Heights Education Campus, all but one were.) I’m not sure how they define “economically disadvantaged” for the purpose of this report, and I recognize that a few students may have been absent on test-day, but in any event, it appears that there are many DCPS schools that have literally zero students from non-poor households.

        • I believe that “economically disadvantaged” has to do with income and household side and whether or not they are eligible for Free and Reduced Meals (also known as FARM). For reference sake, my kids fall in this category. Although I am a single mom, I make a decent amount of money and would not qualify elsewhere, however, the median income is such that I’ve got a ways to go before I get out of that category in DC. Anecdotally speaking with zero evidence to support, what you are seeing in terms of the high numbers of economically disadvantaged students comes from wealthier families either moving or putting their kids in private school, and also the fact that the richer you are, the more likely you are to play the lottery for a charter spot rather than attend your neighborhood school.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Thanks. The explanation regarding FARM is helpful. I suspect you are probably correct regarding the reasons for the high-number of economically disadvantaged students. However, it still blows my mind that the number of non-disadvantaged kids in so many of these schools is *zero.”

          • That number may not actually be zero. Under a program called CEP, all students at some high-poverty schools are eligible for FARM without having to fill out an application. This means that all students get listed as economically disadvantaged when using FARM as the criteria.
            It’s a distinction with very little difference (these schools really are full of poor kids), but I think it’s worth noting.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I find it especially disheartening when we’re talking about schools in neighborhoods where buying a house today is likely to cost well over half a million dollars and we’re arguing about whether the number of non-poor kids in the local high school is zero vs. 2 or 5 or 8.

          • What jcm said… My kids got free lunch when they went to a school where (I think) 90% of the kids qualified for FARM, even though we did not qualify on income numbers alone. I guess it’s just more of an administrative burden than it’s worth when the great majority qualifies for the benefit to sort out the few who don’t.
            But then when it comes to census and testing time, there’s no way to break out the reality.
            I agree with you on your last point, completely.

    • No, 90% did not meet expectations in math and 75% did not meet expectations in English. Still pitiful, but these results are bad enough we shouldn’t inadvertently make them worse.

  • justinbc

    LOL @ those descriptions. Did they have to move away from A-F because the delineation was too black and white? I’m guessing for less involved parents if their kid came home and said “I did not yet meet expectations in math” their response would be a lot different than “I got an F in math”.

    • This is an annual assessment, not a replacement for letter grades. You might have missed this part: “While no single test shows a complete picture of achievement, annual assessments provide important information about student strengths and areas for improvement, especially when combined with student grades and teacher reports.”

  • “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)” is a confusing name for a test that will be given to a broader group than just high school seniors — does this mean if they meet expectations they’re ready for college/ a career? Or just that they’ve met the expectation for what they were supposed to learn that particular class, that, eventually, will lead to college and/or a career? Because if a quarter of all high school students are ready for college, that’s pretty much bang on track. If only a quarter have learned what they were supposed to learn that year, that’s depressing.

    • The website is pretty confusing and not easy to navigate. But from what I can tell, there are different tests for different grades. So it’s not like they are testing 9th graders to see if they are ready for college level work. They appear to be testing each grade to see if the kids are where they need to be to succeed at the next grade.

      • That sucks. Welp, looks like we’ve got some work to do.

      • Yes, this is annual testing at grade level that has been adopted by many states who have implemented Common Core. The annual testing is required by No Child Left Behind.. I think (but am not positive) that DC switched to PARCC as part of their Race to the Top grant.

  • I’ll just say this, everybody knew coming in that these new tests were going to be more difficult than past year testing and cannot be compared to other tests. At least two states redefined a “proficient” score (made it easier to achieve) after receiving results like these – we’ll see if DC follows. Ohio (one of those states) went so far as to ditch the PARCC tests altogether.

  • Please enlighten me if I am missing something, but is there any way to interpret these results as anything but terrible.
    90% of HS students not meeting expectations in Math and 75% not meeting expectations in English?
    Geesh! What skills are these kids getting to allow them to succeed after graduation.
    Sorry, but “approaching” and “partially meeting” expectations are just other ways of saying “did not meet expectations.”

    • Possibly. I’m not familiar with these tests or with the current curriculum, so I’m speaking in general terms.
      1. I would first want to know what population was used to develop norms for the test. If, for example, the “norms” were made using upper middle class, prep school students, or even samples of students from entire states — that would mean that the samples, presumably the population, and the norms might not be the best criteria to use for a population that is very different from the one used to “norm” the test.
      2. If the tests are not aligned with the curriculum, that means that students might be making significant progress — that might never be captured by the tests.
      3. If the population of kids being tested starts off significantly below the “norms” expected, they might be making significant progress that may never be captured by the test. For example, if a group of sixth graders score three years below grade level, and later, as 7th graders, these students score one year below grade level — most of us would view that as being significant progress, even though 90 – 100 percent of the students would still not meet proficiency according to the norms of the test.

      The best way to use this data, assuming that it is, indeed, aligned with the Common Core curriculum, is, as Kang stated, to use it as baseline data — and assess future test scores against this baseline data. Even this, though, may not be very useful with transient student populations, since most would want to know that the student population being compared to the baseline data was essentially the same student population that was assessed to provide the baseline data in the first place.

  • From the WaPo:

    “Just 10 percent of District students who took a new standardized Geometry test and 25 percent of students who took a new high school English test met proficiency standards designed to reflect whether they are on track to enter college or begin careers after graduation.

    Results also show a stark achievement gap, with 52 percent of white students scoring proficient or better on the Geometry test, compared to 8 percent of Hispanic students and 4 percent of black students. Eighty-two percent of white students met the college-ready target in English, compared to 25 percent of Hispanic students and 20 percent of black students.”


  • LOL@’did not YET meet expectations’….oh man. Maybe one day, huh?

  • How about instead of teaching kids how to take test, just teach them? This really burns me up because I find even on the elementary level (Where my kid is currently) the teachers hands have been forced to teach testing rather than actual subject material. So they spend entirely WAY TOO MUCH TIME on what I see as an automatic set up for failure. Its no wonder teachers are burned and bummed out and retention in DCPS is terrible. Times have definitely changed from when I was a student. We may have had one or two tests per year, but my daughter’s class has tested two to three times already and she is in 3rd grade.

    • What tests has she taken? My kids (PK4, 1st and 4th) have been tested this year, but only for reading and math level. This is important to gauge their progress and also to determine which group they should be placed in for these subjects since their school does small groups for these subjects based on reading level. Honestly, I have not found that their school “teaches to the test” aside from the prep my son had for PARCC last year and DC CAS the previous year. IMHO, that prep was necessary because it was so outside the norm, and it did not impact negatively on the other areas. Also, in comparison to when my son was in Maryland Public Schools, he has taken FAR fewer quizzes and tests, and by comparison. This of course is going to vary school by school, but I just have not had the same experience.

      • I don’t think there is anything wrong with testing in and of itself, it’s when all of the focus is on this one test and your entire year is leading up to this one test and all the tests you take are to teach you how to take this one test versus gauging whether or not you know the material where things go wrong.

      • Same here – reading and math and for the same purposes which I GET IT…but it just appears year by year that the focus is mostly on testing and academics has strayed away from where I was when I was her age. I agree with AG – and this is what I am seeing in DCPS – the year seems to consist of testing and not really gauging whether or not the material they’re teaching has been grasped 100% by the student.

  • How about this question: Are we seeing any positive trends; anything that can be seen as a promising development; or are these results just another way of illustrating poor academic performance in two demographic groups in DC?

    • I should have read the entire post: “These results set a new baseline and reflect the higher standards the District adopted to ensure students achieve 21st century college and career readiness,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “Just as scores improved on the DC CAS over time, the District expects scores to improve on the PARCC assessment.

      Still, any reason at all to see this in a positive light? Somebody please say yes, and convincingly so.

      • So here’s some actual good news, from a different, nationawide test, which also released results yesterday:
        Nationally, math scores dropped for the first time since the tests were administered in the early 1990s. Eighth-grade reading scores also fell, and fourth-grade reading performance was stagnant. Virginia’s scores were flat in 2015, bucking the trend.
        The District offered a bright spot in the otherwise bleak results, as one of just two jurisdictions that posted gains on two tests. Fourth-graders in the District made significant strides, climbing three points on the national math test and seven points on the reading test. Scores for eighth-graders, which saw a bump in 2013, stayed relatively flat in 2015.
        On the NAEP, fourth-graders from D.C. Public Schools made larger gains than those in charter schools in 2015, climbing eight points since 2013 in reading. They also caught up to the large-city average score for the first time, according to a parallel report on urban school districts. The school district’s fourth-graders also climbed four points in math.

    • That question got posed by Michelle Rhee…but they couldnt take the scrutiny so they ran her out of town. The people in power want DC’s poor to stay poor.

  • I look forward to seeing the results of the elementary grades when they are released, however, I do not think they will be much better. At my 4th grader’s last APTT meeting, the vast, vast majority of his peers were significantly under performing in regards to reading and math. The teachers work So. Freaking. Hard. but there really is so much that they can do. My son has come leaps and bounds himself since entering DCPS, having entered the school a full grade level under where he should have been for reading and now being a full grade level above. But there are others who just have not made those strides. One thing that I would like to see is the break down between non-native English speakers and native speakers. This, to me, is a greater indicator than race; the kids who’s parents do not speak English as a first language, and in some cases barely any at all, really struggle. Common Core is such a foreign concept to me that I struggle to assist my son with his homework (literally, I was helping him with some multiplication and was dumbfounded by the method he used), I can imagine trying to navigate that and English at the same time. There’s a great deal of support for kids who are behind, I just wonder if there is as much support for non-native speakers as well – and not just Spanish, but Amharic and other languages.

    • One thing to note from the results is that Latino children outperformed black children. Having one or more parent unable to speak English is likely to hurt a child’s ability to learn, but the numbers seem to indicate that some other factor (or factors) is causing black students to perform the worst.

      • Blithe

        Or there might be some other factor — or factors — affecting the Latino student’s scores in contrast to the scores of the black students. I’m not suggesting that any of what I’m about to say is actually true, but: if, for example, Latino students who are not doing well have higher drop out rates than black students who are not doing well, the lower mean scores for the black students could reflect a wider range of skills — and scores. Similarly, if the group of Latino students is much smaller than the group of Black students, it might be easier for a relatively small number of higher scoring students to impact the mean scores for the group. I do plan to look at the more detailed results to see if I can get a clearer sense of what the results might actually mean.

      • Just because a student is Latino does not make them an English Language Learner. In fact, a lot of Latino children are third generation American born. More than is probably realized and/or appreciated. Also, when you think of, say Puerto Ricans, they are Latino, but also American with access to English and often learning English in school from a young age.
        In my opinion, the issue is less about racial divide and more about socio-economic divide. Black students are far more likely to be poor students, and the achievement gap for socio-economic status only gets wider as children age in the system.

  • 75% and 90% of students failed to meet expectations in English and math, respectively. That’s horrific. And this nonsense of “approached expectations” – it’s particularly appalling that in the raw data, they have an aggregate that quantified 3+ – that it, in the top three categories. If this were a typical 5-level scale, where the middle was “meets expectations”, that’d be a helpful statistic. But here, they’re aggregating kids who met expectations with those who didn’t to produce that stat – it’s therefore useless, and misleading.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Huh? Not sure I understand how excluding a big chunk of the city gives you a more accurate view of the entire city. Anyway, sure you can, follow the links and you can download the data on a school-by-school basis.

  • ….because it’s the poor kids who don’t matter? Or just the black ones?

  • Standardized tests are useful for making comparisons: a student now vs. that student a few years ago, one school vs. another school, etc. They can also be useful for evaluating policies – “what happens when we increase/decrease class size?”

    What they’re not useful for is saying “x% of students meet expectations,” if you don’t know how anyone else is doing on them or how those expectations were set. Without that information, the numbers are meaningless.

    What I want to know, looking at this, is how correlated these test results are with the old test results. If we see pretty much the same rank order in terms of how schools are performing on this, then maybe this was a a lot of fuss for nothing.

  • Yes, the results are pretty stark — but the previous state tests (DC CAS) measured mostly basic skills, and the PARCC tests measure the kinds of knowledge and skills students need to be ready for community college, a university, or the workforce (like writing and applying math skills to solve problems). So, you can’t compare results from the old test to this one. This is supposed to be a clearer, more honest benchmark so kids don’t graduate high school thinking they’re ready for the real world and then find out quickly they didn’t learn what they needed to. (Just listen to NPR’s recent series on how tough it is for students from low-income communities and urban schools when they go off to college. They were valedictorians at their high school and then struggle to keep up on a college campus for a host of reasons, including less rigorous academic preparation than middle class/suburban kids.) If teachers, families and students can get information earlier about how students are progressing on their path to being prepared, then they can actually do something about it while students are still in school.

  • Does seeing this make anyone feel at all happy with the leadership of our city’s schools? Do you feel comfortable sending your children to DCPS Schools? What is the solution?

  • DC was about HALF of what Maryland did. and maryland includes hellholes like baltimore and PGcounty.

    On a level of 1 to 5, with five considered the very best and four labeled as meeting expectations,
    31.2 percent of high school students passed algebra one,
    20.2 percent passed algebra two, and
    39.7 percent of Maryland high school students passed English 10.

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