By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
The recent news that District of Columbia students are making progress on a widely used standardized test was met with skepticism by some who say predominantly Black schools in the city aren’t doing enough to educate their charges.
On August 16, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that for the third year in a row, District students made advances in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Noting the gains in English Language Arts (ELA) of 8.5 percent and math of 7.3 percent, Bowser said the District schools are headed in the right direction academically.
“Three years of steady improvements on the PARCC assessment shows we are making real, meaningful advances and that our students are rising to meet the high expectations we’ve set for them,” the mayor said.
The PARCC is the latest federally-mandated standardized test used to measure the academic progress of District students between grades 3 and 11. It is designed to see if students are on track to be successful in college and career.
Recent reports in the Washington Post minimized the advances in ELA and math and focused on the lower scores of schools primarily east of the Anacostia River. When the Office of State Superintendent on Education (OSSE) was approached regarding this issue, it responded with the following statement.
“The PARCC is a high-quality assessment that measures the fundamental skills we know are important to prepare students for success in college and careers – like writing, problem-solving and other fundamental skills that lead to confidence and success in mathematics and ELA,” the OSSE statement said.
The statement also said PARCC is “one important data point – but should not be the only source of information in determining student achievement.”
“There are many other important sources of information that helps us understand how our students are performing,” the statement said. “Those include grades, formative assessments, classroom assessments and teacher feedback.”
The District of Columbia Public Schools, in a statement to the AFRO, said “PARCC is one of many measures of student achievement that helps identify the areas where our students excel, and areas where they need additional support.”
D.C. State Board of Education President Karen Williams told the AFRO PARCC shouldn’t be the only measure of whether or not a school is properly educating its students. “For example, look at H.D. Woodson,” Williams said. “It has a wonderful, successful STEM and IT program and many schools, especially those east of the river, have good programs that stimulate students.”
Williams said PARCC is a good measurement of what a student has learned in a particular grade and that information is used to provide the schools and teachers resources to meet the needs.
“In order to bring our students up to par, you have to start in the early grades,” Williams said.
Larry Rubin, communications director for the Washington Teachers Union, told the AFRO that “the majority of our membership” agrees a diagnostic testing tool is needed.
“Students should be tested at the beginning and end of the year to see if progress is made,” he said.