PARCC progress eludes Black and Hispanic students

Chloe Fatsis

Wilson students are performing better overall on one of DCPS’ most important standardized tests. But Black and Hispanic students’ scores continue to lag behind their white and Asian counterparts.

In 2015-16, the first year PARCC data was collected for DCPS, only 21 percent of Wilson students received a score of 4 or 5, which is considered proficient, on the ELA section. Last year, scores increased to 55 percent proficiency. Math scores have also gradually increased since 2015-16, from 18 percent proficiency to 30 percent last year.

On the math section of the 2017-18 PARCC, 47 percent of white students and 40 percent of Asian students were proficient. For Black and Hispanic students, the proficiency rates were 16 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Similarly, on the English portion, 71 percent of Asian students and 79 percent of white students were proficient, while Black and Hispanic students scored 33 and 30 percent.

Why are Black and Hispanic students performing worse? “That’s the silver bullet question in education,” math teacher Emily Farrar said. “If there was a single reason that scores look like that, it would be fixed. I think the biggest thing you that have to look at is you have to look at the whole child and every factor.”

Farrar said that students have been viewed as data points, without any consideration for other factors that might play into a student performance. “We started realizing that whether or not [a student] eats breakfast has an impact on how he does in school, whether or not [a student] is read to as a really little kid has an impact on how he does in school, how far [a student] travels to school has an impact on how he does in school,” she said.

Wilson is trying to combat the racial disparity. Honors for All, which was started last year, aims to close the achievement gap between white and minority students by eliminating all on-level freshman biology and English classes.

“Honors for All is a push in the right direction,” Farrar said. “Just because you’re quote unquote ‘really smart’ or ‘you get it’ doesn’t mean that a kid who can’t get it immediately shouldn’t have the same exposure to rigorous content as kids who pick things up quickly.”

Wilson Data Coordinator Joseph Bellino agrees. “The way a school is going to improve is not by getting more of the good students, but by doing better with the kids who are really struggling,” he said.