Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key said Tuesday that a department of education announcement last week saying end-of-the-year testing showed a majority of students being “on track for college and career readiness” was actually “in error.” In fact, most students are not meeting expectations.
On Oct. 8, the department announced that students scoring at least a 3 on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam were “on track for college and career readiness.”
But according to PARCC’s definition, a score of 3 indicates a student only “approached academic expectations.” A score of 4 means the student “met academic expectations.”
Students could score between 1 and 5, with 1 being the least prepared.
The differences are significant. In Algebra I, 60% of student test-takers scored a 3 while only 28% of student test-takers scored a 4 or 5. In geometry, 57% scored at least a 3 while 21% scored at least a 4. In ninth grade English language arts, 64% scored at least a 3 while 36% scored at least a 4. In 10th grade English language arts, 60% scored at least a 3, while 37% scored at least a 4.
Two assessments were optional. Sixty-nine percent of students assessed in grade 11 English language arts scored at least a 3, while 43% scored at least a 4. In Algebra II, 39% scored at least a 3 while only 15% scored at least a 4 and met academic expectations.
“Any assertion that Arkansas has adopted Level 3 as demonstrating proficiency is inaccurate,” Key said in a press release. “We fully embrace the higher level of expectations reflected in our standards and our assessment system, as these are critical components of advancing our K-12 education along the path to excellence.
“Our description of Level 3 and above as reflecting students being ‘on track for college and career readiness’ was in error. We should have then, as we will from this point forward, used the actual descriptions from PARCC to accurately reflect the performance of students at Level 3 as approaching academic expectations for college and career readiness.”
Key said the department has written a letter to parents explaining the scores. According to the press release, it says, “Students who score at Level 3 are approaching college and career academic expectations for the knowledge and skills tested at the grade level; however, they will need support to reach Level 4 or 5. These students need improvement to attain college and career readiness.”
This is the only year that students will take the PARCC exam, which was designed to measure student performance across state lines under the Common Core standards. Earlier this year, the State Board of Education bowed to pressure from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislators to remove Arkansas from the shrinking PARCC consortium. Next year, students will take the ACT Aspire exam.
Previously, Arkansas students participated in the Arkansas Benchmark and End-of-Course assessments, which compared students against state standards but not other states.
Individual district and student scores for grades 9-12 will be released in November. Scores for grades 3-8 are scheduled to be announced at the November State Board of Education meeting.