Differing PARCC testing formats result in test score disparity
School districts across Ohio are disputing the state report cards they received from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC, testing results that Ohio schools were required to administer last year.
According to an article from The Columbus Dispatch, entitled, “Online state tests got worse scores than paper,” there was a significant disparity of grades between schools who took the tests online compared to paper tests.
Among school districts who tested on paper, 85 percent received an A, while among school districts who took the tests online, 17 percent received an A, and 62 percent received an F. Many school officials argue that schools which took the tests online were at an unfair disadvantage as a result of the online tests allegedly being more rigorous and demanding than the paper tests.
The Ohio Department of Education released a press statement on its website which stated, “After extensive review, highly credentialed teams of experts from leading universities and organizations, such as NASA, have validated that the state’s online tests and written exams are comparable — with no advantage offered by either mode of testing over the other.”
The tests are affecting schools all over Ohio, including the Wooster City School District. According to Tyler Keener, principal of WHS, the WCSD took the PARCC and the American Institute of Research, or AIR, tests completely online last year. PARCC was used for language arts and math, and AIR was used for science and social studies. Overall, the WCSD received a value-added grade of C, whereas last year, the WCSD had a value-added A.
Keener stated that a value-added grade is a grade that assesses a school district’s progress annually. Dr. Michael Tefs, superintendent of WCS, further clarified that the value-added grades were only based on grades four to eight to analyze a school district’s progress.
Keener said he believes one of the possible reasons schools that took the tests online on average received a lower grade is due to a difference in rigor between the two different versions of the tests.
“It seems as if the rigor was just not there as much for the paper tests,” Keener said, adding that it could explain why there was a disparity between the two formats and why the WCSD’s state report card dropped from an A to a C.
Keener believes that in order for the tests to truly provide a fair assessment of a school’s quality, then it needs more time to be refined in the future to create a system that everyone can trust. He hopes that legislation will fix the issues concerning standardized testing in Ohio.
Tefs stated that it is especially challenging for younger students taking the standardized tests to adapt to a new testing format online.
“If they made everybody do the same test…I think most of our educators would say okay [to the same tests] because the comparative analytics would then be the same for everyone…,” Tefs said. He said it was unfair for the ODE to compare the grades of different school districts taking different formats of the test because the data was inconsistent. He said he does not oppose having students take a more rigorous test, he simply wants every school to be judged on a fair basis.
According to Tefs and Keener, while the school district wanted to switch over to paper tests again in 2016 because of their dissatisfaction with the online version, the ODE denied Wooster’s request to change formats. An article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer entitled, “There’s no going back to paper tests…” elaborated that Wooster was one of over 20 school districts whose requests to change back to a paper format were denied by the ODE.
Since the PARCC tests were scrapped due to their unpopularity, now Ohio schools will adminiser the AIR tests for all subject areas instead. And once again, the WCSD will administer the tests completely online.
Both Tefs and Keener stated that despite the fact the WCSD received a lower grade than usual this year, they still take pride in the district’s teachers and what the district has accomplished over the years.