BY MELANIE BUCK –
Due to a change in testing, Mena Public Schools received results from last spring’s PARCC testing for the last time, and scored average when compared to other schools in Arkansas. PARCC testing measures students’ aptitudes in the areas of math and language arts and has been used by schools across the nation; however, this spring, testing will come from ACT Aspire.
Parents of Holly Harshman students received their individual test results at semester, however middle and high school students will receive theirs at midterm parent teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday, February 4th. Louise Durham Elementary administered the Iowa Test of Basic Schools and is not included in the rankings.
In district-wide results, Mena Public School District was ranked 93 out of 222 districts in the state’s PARCC test rankings. HHE was ranked 190 out of 462 elementary schools in the state and scored higher than 58.9% of elementary schools in Arkansas. In English language arts, HHE students in 3rd – 5th grades averaged an overall score of 733.66, compared to the state overall score of 733, out of a possible overall score of 850. In math, HHE students averaged 733.66, compared to the state average of 731.
MMS was ranked 126 out of 281 middle schools in the state and scored higher than 55.2% of them. Out of a possible overall score of 850, MMS students averaged 736, compared to the state average of 734.66 in English and 727.3 in math, compared to the state overall score of 726.6
MHS ranked 121 of 266 high schools across the state and scored higher than 54.5% of the high schools in Arkansas. In English language arts, MHS students averaged 728.5, compared to a 736 average across the state. In math, MHS averaged 727.5 compared to 731.5 in the state overall score.
PARCC released a statement along with the test results to the school district that said, “Tests were administered for the first time in spring 2015 and were designed to measure the new state standards that are guiding instruction in math and English language arts. The new more rigorous expectations focus on the skills students need in today’s world, including critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning. Because the PARCC tests are measuring these complex skills, which are different from previous state tests, it is expected that scores on the PARCC test will look lower.”
Mena School Superintendent Benny Weston said the district plans to use the test results to positively impact curriculum planning and student learning. “Correlations were drawn between these state scores and our local test data. A district vertical realignment team has been formed and will meet to continue communication between grade levels and campuses as we prepare our students for the ACT Aspire and ACT testing this spring.”
Following the recommendation of Governor Asa Hutchinson and the State Board of Education, Mena will begin using ACT Aspire this spring. After much debate, the Arkansas State Board of Education approved the change of testing throughout Arkansas schools last July to begin using ACT Aspire instead of the long-used PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing. The Council for Common Core Review believes that students will benefit more from ACT Aspire because it follows ACT (American College Testing) closely and ACT testing is what most colleges require for acceptance into their programs. The Council recommended using a test prepared by ACT for various reasons, including: the national recognition of ACT; the comparability between states; the minimal time spent testing relative to PARCC (about half the time of PARCC); and the ACT’s relevance to students.
For students, schools, and districts the ACT Aspire provides an array of features and functions that can be scaled for statewide implementations, individual districts, associations of schools or individual schools. ACT Aspire provides a standards-based system of assessments to monitor progress toward college and career readiness from grade 3 through early high school, connecting each grade level to the next. They also provide statewide assessment, data management and reporting functions for all students, districts, schools, aggregated and disaggregated groups of learners, and the individual learner. The ACT Aspire is aligned with the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and student outcomes align to the Domain and Cluster reporting categories of the Common Core State Standards and have the capability to predict outcomes on the ACT.
Along with assessments and data reporting, there is ongoing research, support, and validation of the system to reflect changes in college and career readiness standards and a flexible professional development on the state, district or school levels.