Thursday, December 3, 2015
By Marti ShirleyWith PARCC results coming in, teachers are wondering how to interpret the score reports, and how to explain the results to parents who ask for guidance. Fortunately, the reports are easy to read and provide useful information for students, teachers and parents.
Each student will be given an individual report for both the English language arts/literacy and mathematics tests that describes his or her current level of performance and their abilities in subcategories. In the classroom, my students will be reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses, and identifying their personal needs. As a teacher it is important to look at the sub claims and see areas where your students overall may have struggled; knowing this will allow you to provide more opportunities for students to practice and learn these skills. For my own students, I anticipate needing to focus more on mathematical reasoning, as historically my students haven’t had to justify and explain their answers in math.
PARCC results break down into five levels; if a student is at Level 1 or Level 2, they are struggling and need help mastering the content. Identifying this early allows us to consider RTI (Response to Intervention), tutoring or other additional supports our school provides. As for students who scored at Level 4 or Level 5, we need to continue to challenge them. Knowing they are demonstrating a strong grasp of the content, we need to keep that bar high so they can continue to grow.
I know many parents will be concerned if their child’s score is a Level 3 or below. How do we respond to those concerns? How do we help them understand this new test when we are just learning it ourselves? Luckily, there are a lot of great resources: one site I plan on using is UnderstandtheScore.org. There are mock score reports and parent guides, videos and descriptions of the higher standards and explanations of how the test is scored. One idea would be to have a parent forum, where we invite parents into the school and print off a mock score report from this site. It would give us time to explain the report to the parents and address concerns. Parents may see that while their student is performing at Level 3 overall, they are meeting or exceeding standards in one of the sub claims. Or while they perform at Level 2, they nearly met expectations in some areas. In addition, while these results are an important measurement of their student’s ability, we must remind parents of the many ways the district and classroom teachers are preparing their students for success.
Teaching in a rural area, the best part of this report for me is that it shows my students compared to students in a variety of settings. I know how they are doing compared to their peers in the building, the district, the state and other states across the nation. It shows their preparedness on a level beyond my classroom.
This is only the first year of the test; do not be discouraged if your students’ performance was not what you anticipated. Think about your first year teaching; did your students master the concepts as well as the students you taught last year? This is my 13th year and I know for certain the students I teach now are developing a much stronger number sense and ability to problem solve than those my first year teaching. We have raised the bar for our students and it will take time for all the transformations needed in our classrooms and in student learning to occur.
Remember, this report is just one snapshot of a student’s ability; it should be used to guide instruction and identify areas for improvement. As the 2016 PARCC testing approaches, this report will help guide more personalized instruction and more meaningful curriculum. PARCC is not a test one can teach to; it is truly a measure of students’ knowledge and ability.
Marti Shirley is a mathematics teacher and team leader in Mattoon, Ill. This is her 13th year teaching in the state, in both rural districts and the Chicago suburbs.