PARCC uses the language of "students meeting or exceeding expectations," whereas NECAP used the term "proficiency." Whatever you want to call it, far fewer students meet the bar on PARCC.
Gaps remain large for urban students and students of color. In Providence only about 10 percent of students met the bar in Math. In East Greenwich and Barrington, it was closer to 60 percent.
State officials say they say they have no current plans to replace PARCC even though some states have dropped it, but Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner indicated that he is open to considering all options for the future.
Statewide 2015 PARCC % meet/exceed
Reading: 36 %
Math: 25 %
Statewide 2013 NECAP % proficient
Reading 71 %
Math 59 %
In Rhode Island, just four districts had 70 percent or more students meet or exceed expectations in English. More than half of districts (32) had just 35 percent meet or exceed expectations. (full state results available here.)
In math, just six districts had 50 percent or more students meet or exceed expectations on PARCC.
State officials say the lower scores were expected, and comparisons to NECAP should be avoided because the tests are different. Students are still getting used to the new test and the computer-based testing platform, which was used by about 80 percent of students.
But perhaps more importantly, state officials say PARCC was designed to test a more sophisticated set of skills based around critical thinking and problem solving. They are looking at the first year of testing as a “starting point” to measure progress going forward.
Another important note: no test score has been set at this point to serve as a graduation requirement for seniors in the class of 2020.
Performance by District
Looking at the top and bottom performers among districts, trends are similar to NECAP. Urban, low-income districts consistently perform worse than suburban and wealthier communities. Barrington and East Greenwich are in a battle for the top slot with Jamestown a consistent number three. South Kingstown also had strong results in both Math and English. Some schools, especially at the high school level, had enough opt-outs to call the scores into question.
Central Falls seemed to struggle the most. Providence, Pawtucket and Woonsocket did not fare much better. The RI School for the Deaf continues to show extremely poor results.
Top 5 Districts by % meeting or exceeding expectations
Barrington 70.9 % East Greenwich 57.6%
East Greenwich 69.8% Barrington 57%*
Jamestown 61.4% Jamestown 53.7%
New Shoreham 60% S. Kingstown 49.6%
S. Kingstown 57.9 % Exeter-West Greenwich 48%
*Removed Glocester b/c the district serves only elementary school students
Bottom 5 Districts and RI School for the Deaf* by % meeting/exceeding
RI School for the Deaf 3.1% School for the Deaf 3.4%
Central Falls 9.9% Central Falls 5.2%
Providence 17.8% Providence 9.8%
Highlander 19.7% Woonsocket 12.1%
Pawtucket 19.9% Highlander 13.6%
Woonsocket 20.3% Pawtucket 13.8%
*included all districts, state schools or charter schools that serve all grade levels (The Met School, Davies and several charter schools were excluded because they do not serve K-12).
Charter schools plus the MET, UCAP and Davies
There is significant variation between charter schools, but overall Blackstone Valley Prep is a real standout at all grade levels and subjects, Kingston Hill scored well as an elementary school and the Compass School consistently scores well. Several, though not all, charter schools outperform their home districts. But some of Providence’s newer charter high schools and the MET high school have lower test scores than the district average.
How does RI compare to other PARCC states?
Not all states have released their first year of testing data, and some may not return for a second year. However, it seems helpful to compare with our neighbor Massachusetts and with New Jersey, which is often pointed out as a state with a similar rate of urbanization to Rhode Island. The short answer to the question is that both states had higher rates of students meeting/exceeding expectations.
MA NJ RI
3rd Grade English 54%* 44% 37.4%
3rd Grade Math 55%* 45% 36.3%
7th Grade English 60%* 52% 38.3%
7th Grade Math 45%* 37% 25.4%
9th Grade English 39%** 40% 32.8%
Algebra I 22%** 36% 25.5%
Geometry 36%** 22% 13.7%
*Mass used a representative sample to report its percent meeting/exceeding expectations.
**HS data was not a representative sample, but fewer High Schools used PARCC because MCASS remained a graduation requirement.
State officials report that achievement gaps remain the same in PARCC as they were in NECAP. Low-income students, students of color and students with special education supports are significantly less likely to meet/exceed expectations.
Interestingly, female students were proficient in English at twice the rate of males and about the same rate in Math.
Group low income non low income
Math 12% 37%
English 21% 50%
Group Black Hispanic White
Math 11% 11% 33%
English 20% 19% 45%
Group special ed non special ed
Math 4% 28%
English 6% 41%
What About The Opt Outs?
According to RIDE, roughly 10 percent of students across the state did not participate in PARCC for various reasons, including opt out forms signed by parents. State officials do not believe the opts outs compromised statewide results. However, some schools and districts did have significant numbers of opt-outs, which affected their individual results. The highest numbers of non participation were in high schools.
Here are a few examples:
Scituate HS: 25% of students took Math, 27% English
East Providence HS: just 34% of students took the English test, 35% Math
Westerly High School: 44%English/40% Math
Portsmouth HS: 49%
Sheila Skip Nowell (Charter): 51% English/47% Math
Burrillville: 60% of all students took test, 39% at Burrillville Middle School
N. Kingstown HS: 64%
Portsmouth HS: 50%
Tiverton HS: 75% Math
Central Falls High School: 67% math, 35 % English
Providence high schools: 75 % English, 84 % math