Absent PARCC data, schools turn to local data to make instructional changes

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Jefferson Junior-Senior High School Principal Michael James. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)

Jefferson Junior-Senior High School Principal Michael James. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat)

By Nicholas GarciaChalkbeat

For a second year in a row, schools across Colorado are back in session and principals are empty-handed.

While the Colorado Department of Education on Thursday released statewide results from the PARCC English and math tests administered last spring, district and school-level results won’t be released until later, officials said.

The delay means frustrated teachers and school leaders are without data as the school year begins — even though one of the promises of online testing was that student- and school-level data would be in the hands of teachers quicker.

“Our teachers report back Thursday,” said Michael James, principal of Jefferson Junior-Senior High School in Jefferson County. “Friday we’re doing a data dig. We’re using MAP testing.”

MAP is a popular assessment tool used by many schools in Colorado that tracks student progress three times a year.

James said by time he receives his PARCC data later this month, it will likely be too late to make real instructional shifts. But he has hope: “As the years continue, I will find more meaning in PARCC.”

Chris Gibbons, CEO of the STRIVE Prep charter network in Denver, echoed James.

“It’s in the best interest of students that schools have data — the sooner, the better,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re using other measures, interim assessments, more prominently.”

Joyce Zurkowski, the state’s chief testing officer, pointed out that schools will receive their data four months earlier than last year. Officials said in 2015 that the delay for school-level data would be an exception because it was the first year the test had been administered.

“We’re not that far off from our historic release date,” she said. School-level data from previous iterations of state tests usually were made public in August.

Part of the delay this year, Zurkowski said, is that about 6 percent of students took a paper-and-pencil version of the test. That slowed down scoring.

Zurkowski added that she believes schools will have time to review their data before improvement plans are due to the state later in the year.

A spokesman from PARCC declined to comment.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.


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