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BOE emphasizes need to close achievement gaps in PARCC scores, regardless of higher-than-average results

Despite Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers scores that are above the state average, Carroll County Board of Education members urged taking a closer look at scores in order to close achievement gaps.

PARCC scores were released this year at the end of August, showing Carroll coming in at flat, or with minor improvements, in most categories. Scores also show Carroll above the state average in the aggregate, although BOE members pointed out Wednesday night that when looking at testing breakdown by race, ethnicity and other factors, the scores aren't as good as they may seem.

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PARCC was first given in 2015. Students' scores fall into one of five categories: exceeded expectations, met expectations, approached expectations, partially met expectations and did not meet expectations.

Carroll County Public Schools Director of Research and Accountability Greg Bricca presented a breakdown of the information at September's Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night.

"Math scores are higher across the board," Bricca told the school board.

But, board member Donna Sivigny pointed out, there's a big drop in math scores in middle school. According to data presented at the meeting, scores for math grades three through five show between 61.4 percent and 66.6 percent of students scoring a four or a five, which is considered passing. But for math grades six through eight, the number of students passing ranged from 41.7 percent to 49.5 percent.

"The content is more difficult," Bricca said. "You can see that reflected statewide."

Both Sivigny and Board of Education President Devon Rothschild also brought up the continued achievement gaps between white and minority students, and between those students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals.

While 68.3 percent of white third-graders, 66.4 percent of white fourth-graders and 64.2 percent of white fifth-graders passed math, only 26 percent of African-American and 28.3 percent of Hispanic third-graders, 42.7 percent of African-American and 32.4 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders, and 34.8 percent of African-American and 43.8 percent of Hispanic fifth-graders passed math.

Both Bricca and Superintendent Stephen Guthrie acknowledged the gaps, and said the goal is to continue to try to close them and see student progression across the board.

"Our ultimate goal, is of course to move all [groups] up," Guthrie said.

Sivigny also brought up the fact that while CCPS students are seemingly doing well in math, those same students seemingly struggle when it comes to English language arts. It's very inconsistent, she said.

"That same population of kids, we drop way down on the ELA side," she added.

While 61.4 percent to 66.6 percent of third-through-fifth-graders passed math, 49.1 to 56.5 percent of students of the same age passed ELA.

Next steps, Bricca said, is to continue using this data to better teach students and align curriculum, though he said they are in their "infancy" of using the scores to do that because students haven't been taking the test for many years.

"It's a long-term effort to make sure a ... curriculum is aligned," he added.

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