What Do the 2016 PARCC Results Tell Us? We Need to Invest More in Early Learning

Each year, thousands of District students take standardized tests to assess their proficiency and learning in critical topics like math and English language arts/literacy (ELA). Yesterday, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released the results for the 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams indicating some student gains compared to last year’s test results.





Pic: OSSE (2016). PARCC

Results. Retrieved from: http://osse.dc.gov/


Given that this is the second time DC has administered PARCC, it is not possible to do longitudinal analysis of student test performance. Prior to the PARCC, students in DC public and public charter schools took the DC-CAS. The DC-CAS and PARCC results cannot be compared because the assessments are very different. However, our analysis of third grade reading scores on the DC-CAS indicated that deep disparities persist between children of color and children in low-income families when compared with their counterparts. Furthermore, the analysis showed that third grade reading proficiency did not improve between 2007 and 2014 when the DC-CAS was administered and the District implemented massive school reform efforts.




Pic: OSSE (2016). PARCC

Results. Retrieved from: http://osse.dc.gov/


The results for third graders on the ELA portion of the PARCC assessment indicate that students continue to face persistent literacy challenges. Last year, results indicated that 25% of thirds graders were on track for the next grade level in ELA; this year, that number inched up to 26%. Since third grade reading proficiency can be a predictor of future academic success, these results indicate that many children are not currently on track for the next grade level and may face challenges later as they prepare for college and/or careers.

However, by responding to this early indicator, the District has an opportunity to help children gain ground. Research also indicates that with the appropriate interventions and supports, young children can get on track and succeed academically and into the future.

Reading proficiency in third grade is an important measure that helps the District respond to the needs of children in the K-12 education system, and it can also help leaders prepare for future generations. Since third grade is the first time children complete a formal standardized assessment, the PARCC scores speak to children’s learning in early childhood and the strength of their foundation when they build the capacity to learn as infants and toddlers.

High-quality early care and education programs can have profound effects on children’s literacy during the years prior to third grade. By ensuring more children have access to stimulating early learning environments, we can anticipate additional future gains on assessments as well as a greater number of children prepared to think analytically and critically in the K-12 education system.

Through our data project DC KIDS COUNT, DC Action tracks trends in population and child well-being. Recently, we have seen the numbers of infants and toddlers continually increase. Given what we know about brain science, development and education, strategies and programs that support early learning become even more critical for the growing population of little ones.

While we see evidence that investments in the K-12 education system are producing change as illustrated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores (the national standardized tests that can chart longitudinal progress despite changes to the local assessment), we know that greater investment in early learning strategies can also have a deep impact by taking a preventive approach. By setting children up for success in their early years and ensuring smooth transitions and appropriate supports throughout their K-12 education, more District children can be college and career ready.

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