In this Feb. 12, 2015 photo, Yamarko Brown, age 12, works on math problems as part of a trial run of a new state assessment test at Annapolis Middle School in Annapolis, Md. The new test is linked to the Common Core standards, which Maryland adopted in 2010 under the federal No Child Left Behind law. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) score reports released last week by the Maryland State Department of Education for third-to-eighth-graders are not the Christmas gift Baltimore students hoped to receive.  The PARCC test scores revealed that students in the city of Baltimore performed severely below state standards in English language arts and math skills.

At every grade level tested, less than 25 percent of Baltimore City Public Schools’ students met or exceeded standards designed to assess students’ understanding of the new Common Core classroom content, adopted in Maryland in the 2013-2014 school year. Baltimore City students in grade three performed at the highest levels with slightly more than 20 percent meeting or exceeding expectations.

“Current third graders were the first group of Baltimore City School students taught from the new Baltimore College and Career Ready Standards from the start of their school experience,” said City Schools CEO Gregory E. Thornton in a statement.

Overall, the state of Maryland has not fared much better, with only 39 percent of all Maryland students meeting or exceeding standards in reading and less than one-third performing at or above grade level in math. State schools officials have said that this first PARCC test is designed to set a baseline and should be used for school districts, parents and communities to develop strategies to support student learning.

Inequalities between ethnic/racial groups in Baltimore City Schools mirror inequities across the state. In grades three to five, slightly below 10 percent of Black students are performing at grade level while 13 percent of Latino students and 34 percent of Caucasian students performed at or above grade.  Black students performed slightly better in English language skills with 12 percent meeting statewide standards.

“The disparities are troubling and highlight the need to provide equity of access to programs and resources to meet the needs of every student,” said Thornton.  

Baltimore City schools officials emphasize that they are already working to better support students based on PARCC test results. “We’ve already started to leverage these data to develop new approaches to ensure we can improve student achievement,” said Linda Chen, BCPS’ chief academic officer, in a statement.

The new PARCC test provides students both a numerical score and a ranking ranging from level one to five.  Level one indicates that a student is not meeting grade level expectations while levels four and five denote that students are meeting or exceeding grade level standards.

Baltimore City students are scheduled to receive individual PARCC assessments later this month.