A new battery of Common Core-based tests proved to be trouble for some of the best students in Baton Rouge metro area public schools
The tests, known at PARCC, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, were given for the first time this spring in grades three through eight in English and math. The tests are meant to align to the controversial Common Core standards adopted by more than 40 states, including Louisiana.
Although some schools held steady and even improved, the general picture shows students at the top and the bottom of the achievement ladder having the hardest time. So, notably fewer children scored advanced and more children scored at the lowest level, unsatisfactory, compared with the tests PARCC replaced.
For instance, third-graders this year had a tougher time excelling in English and math.
Last year, the LSU Lab School had a standout year, with 46 percent of its third-graders scoring advanced in English and 72 percent scoring at the top level in math.
This year, advanced levels fell to 25 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Still, the school ranks fourth in Louisiana in the number of its third-graders scoring advanced in English and fifth in math.
While Zachary Community School District retained its spot at the top overall among school districts, its third-graders had the same issue as those at LSU Lab School: A year ago, 21 percent and 30 percent of the Zachary students reached advanced levels in English and math. This spring, only 5 percent and 12 percent scored advanced in those subjects, respectively.
In fourth grade, the story was similar: 21 percent and 31 percent of Zachary fourth-graders reached advanced levels a year ago in English and math. This spring, that shrunk to 12 percent and 7 percent scoring advanced, respectively.
Fourth-grade math was a tough area. Statewide, 15 percent of students were advanced in 2014 on that grade’s math test. This year, that shrunk to just 2 percent.
PARCC replaced earlier tests known as LEAP and iLEAP, which began in 1999 and 2006, respectively, and are still administered in science and social studies in grades three to eight. Results on those tests also were released Thursday.
PARCC tests were meant to be more rigorous than LEAP, so it’s not surprising they would prove more difficult.
In middle school grades, the difficulties of the new test are not as apparent, in part because those grades have long produced fewer advanced-scoring students than the early grades. The tougher tests, however, showed their impact at times.
For instance, on eighth-grade math, advanced scores generally decreased, and unsatisfactory scores increased.
West Baton Rouge, a year ago, had 8 percent of its eighth-graders scoring advanced in math and only 10 percent unsatisfactory. This year, fewer than 1 percent of its eighth-graders were advanced in math, and 15 percent were unsatisfactory.
Across the river in East Baton Rouge Parish, it was a similar though less dramatic story: The percentage of students scoring advanced in English and math in those grades held steady in math and shrunk a bit in English. But the percentage of unsatisfactory students grew from 11 percent to 15 percent in English and 20 percent to 23 percent in math.