The Maryland State Board of Education voted to make PARCC the state’s high school graduation test. The passing score now will be a 3 on a scale of 1-5, but it will rise to a 4 in four years.

Meanwhile the State Commissioner of Education on Rhode Island, Ken Wagner, decided to drop PARCC as a graduation requirement because he knew the failure rate would be staggering. He said he didn’t want to penalize students for the system’s “failure to get them to high standards.”

Nobody mentioned that PARCC’s passing score is absurdly high and will never be reached by about half of all students.


The Maryland state board violated the first rule of educational testing: Tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. PARCC was not designed to be a high school graduation test. It was designed to test mastery of the Common Core. Its passing marks were set so high that most of the 24 states that adopted PARCC have now dropped it, and only six states and D.C. still use it.


What will Maryland do with the thousands of students who will never earn a high school diploma? Did anyone think about that? You can be certain that most of them will be students with disabilities, English language learners, and children who live in high poverty. There is one loophole: students can create a project that is approved by their teachers and administrators.


The only objection to the new Maryland plan came from the ACLU, which said that there was no evidence that the PARCC raises achievement. Read that again slowly. No test raises achievement. Tests measure how well students do on a standardized test. They don’t improve students’ ability to pass standardized test.


Down the rabbit-hole in Maryland, where the legislature recently voted to approve vouchers, assuring that students may go to religious schools that teach creationism, orthodox Judaism, Catholic doctrine, and Islam.



Liz Bowie writes in the Baltimore Sun:



The new standard means students will not be required to achieve what is considered the national passing score until the 2019-2020 school year.


Thousands of students across the state will struggle to meet even that lowered standard. In 2015, 42 percent of Maryland students who took the Algebra I exam and 39 percent of those who took the English 10 test scored less than a three.


If the standard had been in effect last year, more than half of Baltimore County’s students would not have passed the math test and 35 percent would not have passed the English test.


In Baltimore, 70 percent would not have passed the math exam and more than half would not have passed the English exam.
The Maryland State Education Association, which represents most of the state’s teachers, has not taken a position on the draft regulations. Cheryl Bost, the group’s vice president, said that while the union is “pleased there is a transition plan,” teachers are concerned about whether they will be able to give students the individual attention they need to pass the exams.


Thousands of students, education officials say, will be taking the tests multiple times to try to pass, and many will likely use a loophole that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge by doing a project that is approved by their teacher and other administrators.
With such a large percentage of students failing the exams, teachers will have many more students doing projects who they must work with individually.


Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance said he supports the phase-in approach.


But Bebe Verdery, the ACLU’s Maryland education director, objects to the high-stakes tests. Many states have repealed the tests, she said, because evidence does not show that they increase achievement.


“If the state board is going to persist in having high-stakes graduation exams, it is imperative they provide and guarantee high-quality instruction so that students have the opportunity to pass the test,” Verdery said.