A Closer Look at 7th Grade Math PARCC Scores

by Lori Morrow

Over the next two months, PGCPS will administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test for the third year. For more about PARCC visit the PGCPS website at http://www1.pgcps.org/parcc/.

In late September 2016, PGCPS announced that students had made gains on the PARCC test at most grade levels. However, there was an exception for seventh grade, my child’s grade. According to a PGCPS press release, “Overall, the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations was higher this year, with the exception of the seventh-grade math test, whose testing pool excluded higher-performing students enrolled in eighth-grade math or Algebra I.”

I had initially missed the note about this “exception” but began to look closer at PARCC scores on the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Maryland Report Card after receiving my son’s individual score sheet in October. I was surprised to see so few Level 4 or Level 5 scores for the Math 7 test; those blocks were labeled only with an asterisk, indicating less than 5%. Why had this cohort—students who took the MSA in fifth grade and started with PARCC in sixth grade—fallen behind?

In an email response, PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said that the apparent drop for the Math 7 scores was due to a change in the testing pool. He explained that in the spring of 2015, seventh-grade students, regardless of their math class, took the PARCC score aligned with their grade, Math 7. However, in 2016, PGCPS chose to have seventh-grade students enrolled in Honors Math/Accelerated 2 take the Math 8 PARCC exam, since the accelerated course curriculum was designed to cover Math 7 and 8. This is a question that I never thought to ask when I attended PARCC nights in the spring, but it made a difference in the score results.

On the MSDE website, it is not intuitive that some students are tested at a level other than their assigned grade before high school. Results are broken down by test level and demographics but not by student’s grade. Furthermore, my follow-up questions to PGCPS about the results of seventh graders alone were met with the answer that the information was not publicly available. I knew that my child’s score level had dropped from taking the Math 6 PARCC test in sixth grade to taking the Math 8 PARCC in seventh grade, but I wanted to know how the rest of the seventh graders in Honors/Accelerated 2 fared on the Math 8 exam. After filing a Maryland Public Information Act request, I received the results.

pgcps parcc2016 with mpia

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Charter Schools, Specialty Programs, and the Issue of Equitable Access

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The lively discussion about equitable access to College Park Academy that took place during last month’s Board of Education meeting (beginning at 1:51:27 in the video) is must-watch TV—and not just for the moment when Board Chair Segun Eubanks told Edward Burroughs to “shut up and let the parliamentarian answer the question (at 1:54:50).”

Board Member Edward Burroughs (District 8) proposed amending the resolution granting a one-year extension to College Park Academy, a public charter school for students in grades six through nine which offers blended learning in partnership with the University of Maryland. Referring to the University of Maryland’s request that some slots be allotted to the children of University employees and to residents of College Park, Burroughs emphasized that all students, including “our most disadvantaged students,” should have access to the charter school, “not the select few, not those that come from the elite class in the county or in College Park.”

Burroughs’s amendment—which was adopted after a vote by the Board—adds the clause, “whereas the Board of Education wants to ensure equity and access for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or zip code,” to the language of the resolution.

Contributing to the conversation surrounding equitable access, Board Member Jeana Jacobs (District 5) raised the question of whether children with special needs were being well-served at the school: “You do a review of our special needs population that’s there. There is some suggestion that they’re encouraged to home school or go to their neighborhood school.” (For Jacobs’s remarks, go to 2:06:20 in the video.)

What do the numbers say? Are “our most disadvantaged students” well-represented at College Park Academy? Data from the 2015 Maryland Report Card suggest that College Park Academy serves disproportionately few students needing special services, particularly when compared with the six closest neighboring middle schools (see map of area school locations here).

The table below shows the percentages of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs), who have limited English proficiency (LEP), and who receive special education services, respectively, at the seven schools listed.

SmallChartv2

Percentages of students qualifying for Free and Reduced Meals, with Limited English Proficiency, receiving special education. An asterisk (*)  is used to indicate fewer than ten students in a category1. Source: 2015 Maryland Report Card, “Students Receiving Special Services”

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Parent Calls for Improvement Plan Instead of $120k Survey

Lori Morrow presented a version of this testimony during the public comment portion of the May 12th Board of Education Meeting. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Lori Morrow

A few weeks ago, I watched the April 28th Board of Education meeting at home and
was surprised to hear about a $120,000 survey to determine community
perceptions of PGCPS. I agree with comments made by some board members that
night: We already know many of the negative perceptions that persist from existing surveys.

IMG_0510A few months ago, I noticed each of the school pages on the PGCPS website includes a link to the 2013 School Climate Survey, as well as a note indicating the next biannual survey would be published in Fall 2015. I recall getting an email to fill out the survey last June, and know that my son participated in a survey this school year.

I’ve been attempting to get a copy of this climate survey report and, after more than two months and many emails, I was finally able to access a copy of the report this very morning from a helpful staff member in the Research and Evaluation Department. I was particularly interested in the report for my son’s middle school because of comments I regularly hear from him. While a quick comparison with the 2013 report does show some improvement for the school, a number of areas are rather disappointing.

For example:

  •  31% of Parents disagree with the statement that they are proud to send their
    child to this school
  • 31% of Parents do not believe that teachers will provide students individual
    attention if needed.
  • 44% of Students disagree with the statement that they feel safe in school.
  • 61% of Students do not believe that students respect the authority of
    teachers at this school.
  • 54% of Students do not feel like they are an important part of their school
    community.

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PGCPS Elementary Foreign Language Offerings

by Katherine McElhenny

IMG_7154Have you ever wondered about the foreign language offerings at your local elementary school? Or how your school compares to others in the district?

No? Neither had I until recently.

Our family was out at a restaurant when we ran into a friend whose daughter had attended nursery school with my daughter. Immediately, the two kindergartners began comparing their schools. Our friend was proud of her brand new uniforms and Chinese classes. My daughter boasted of her Russian classes.

The parents were taken aback.

Chinese? Russian? Who knew? What was offered elsewhere? My curiosity was piqued.

A compilation of the district’s foreign language offerings was nowhere to be found on the PGCPS website.  Instead, the chart below was cobbled together from emails and calls to the World Language Office along with teachers and staff at individual schools.

Is your elementary school one of over one hundred that is not listed?  According to PGCPS, those students do not receive any foreign language instruction.

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Prince George’s County PARCC Results Released for Elementary and Middle Schools

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

classroomThe elementary and middle school test results for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in English Language Arts/ Literacy (ELA) and mathematics are now available on the Maryland State Department of Education’s Maryland Report Card. According to the PGCPS news release, home reports will be distributed next Monday.

Maryland is one of a shrinking number of states committed to using the new test, which was administered for the first time during the spring of the 2014-2015 school year.

Here are some key points from the data:

Fewer PGCPS Students Passed AP Exams in 2015

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Earlier this year, we ran a story noting the six-year upward trend in Advanced Placement (AP) exam participation among students in Prince George’s County Schools. Between 2008 and 2014, participation in the AP program grew, while passing rates held steady. (Scores of three or higher, out of a possible five points, are considered passing.)

But according to numbers released on the 2015 Maryland Report Card, both the number of exams taken and the overall passing rate have declined slightly this year. Mathematics exams saw the biggest drop with a passing rate of 15.8% and 109 out of 692 exams receiving a passing score in 2015, compared with last year’s passing rate  of 19.1%, with 161 successful exams out of a total of 841 exams taken.

2008 2014 2015
AP Subject Description Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
All Subjects 2150/7829 (27.5%) 2606/9660 (27%) 2443/9452 (25.8%)
All Fine Arts 55/120 (45.8%) 130/267 (48.7%) 95/267 (35.6%)
All English Language Arts 593/2313 (25.6%) 623/2737 (22.8%) 625/2684 (23.3%)
All Foreign Language 191/301 (63.5%) 227/308  (73.7%) 183/251 (72.9%)
All Mathematics 180/753 (23.9%) 161/841  (19.1%) 109/692 (15.8%)
All Science 682/2341 (29.1%) 775/2791 (27.8%) 778/2616 (29.7%)
All Social Studies 449/2001 (22.4%) 690/2716 (25.4%) 618/2880 (21.5%)

Source: Maryland Report Card

These numbers don’t look good, but it’s not all bad news. Let’s take a closer look at the data and put the numbers in context:

Slight Decline in Prince George’s SAT Scores for 2015

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The 2015 SAT scores for Prince George’s County high schools are now available on the Maryland Report Card. Though the school system’s average math subscore was three points higher this year than last year, 2015 saw a slight decline in both the mean composite SAT score and the number of test takers.

The table below shows the average reading, math, and writing subscores and the average composite SAT scores for 2015 college bound seniors in each of the county’s public high schools, as well as the average scores for PGCPS and the state of Maryland. Next to each score, the change from the previous year, 2014, is displayed in either red or green. For example, in Bladensburg High School, the average reading SAT score was 371 in 2015, 31 points lower than it was in 2014. The average math score was 384, two points higher than in 2014.

sat2015v2

Mean SAT scores for college-bound seniors, as reported by the MSDE on the 2015 Maryland Report Card; changes (+/-) from 2014.

To find SAT scores for your school, for every year from 2008 to 2015, go to the Maryland Report Card and hover over the “School” tab. Choose “Prince George’s County” from the pull-down menu, then find your school. Click to open the SAT pdf file, found under the “Graphs and Tables” heading.

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