PARCC test scores in for area schools

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Math test scores rose slightly and English fell a little among Taos Municipal Schools students who took the PARCC – Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers – test in the 2016-17 school year.

The scores for all school districts using the state-approved test were released in late July. 

PARCC scores are the state’s relatively new way of mapping student progress in math, English and language arts, replacing the New Mexico Standard-Based Assessments in the 2014-15 school year.  These tests are supposed to show administrators how effective their teachers are in teaching material on the tests to students; test scores currently account for a third of a teacher’s annual performance evaluation by the state. 

“To a certain degree, you can see if a student is moving towards the common core standards. However, there’s so much more that is not measured,” said Taos Municipal Schools Superintendent Lillian Torrez. “I don’t believe the results of a PARCC test can tell you whether a child can succeed or not.”

Results of the test are measured on a grading scale of one to five, with five being the highest score. Students must score a four or a five to be considered proficient in a subject and are tested in math and reading standards for their grade level.

Taos Municipal Schools scored minor improvements in the PARCC across the district this year and improved its percentage overall as a district in the math category. District scores in English and language arts (ELA) fell slightly. Torrez said administrators and teachers will be working to address some of the areas in which students are lacking. Taos Middle School saw some improvements in ELA scores with a higher percent of students moving into the “proficient” category.

According to Torrez, only scores of four and five on the test will allow high school students to graduate in the future, so the district is ensuring it is able to field a new method of teaching, especially in math, a subject Torrez says the district’s students struggle the most in. While implementing new programs to help students with math, Torrez also said the technology side of the district is being upgraded to assist in student learning for the upcoming semesters with new equipment in the classrooms and labs.

“Our math teachers continue to get stronger,” said Torrez.

Scores are included on school and district report cards, which reflect the overall grade of the district and school and provide detailed information about the schools, including demographics, test results and graduation rates. School grades are available for free to the public on the New Mexico Public Education Department website.

The PARCC has been especially stressful to students and has even been the subject of controversy in the past. In 2015, the year of the test’s debut, students, parents and teachers across the state marched in protest against the test. Since the introduction of the tests, opposition has lessened over the years, yet teachers are still held accountable for the scores their students receive. Test results account for 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, according to Torrez.

“We just don’t want to blame the teachers,” Torrez said. “...There’s something about that test.”

Other districts in the area have experienced difficulties with the test, but some scores are on the rise from the previous year. Questa Independent School District raised its proficiency score by one point districtwide in ELA and also reduced its level one scores by a point, indicating a rise in a higher point percentage. Peñasco Independent School District also saw an increase in proficiency scores in the mathematics category, but dropped by six points in its proficient level in the ELA tests.

Peñasco Superintendent Marvin MacAuley could not be reached for comment Wednesday (Aug. 9) and Questa interim Superintendent Tony Archuleta did not wish to comment on the scores, as he mentioned he was new to the post and had not yet reviewed them in depth.

For the complete scores, visit ped.state.nm.us/AssessmentAccountability/AcademicGrowth/NMSBA.html.

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