Students in the District of Columbia public and charter school systems are showing improvement in math and English Language Arts, according to results of a standardized test in the second year of use.

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), joined by Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles, D.C. State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, and Deputy Executive Director of the Charter School Board Naomi DeVeaux, trumpeted the improving scores on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) on Aug. 30 at Banneker High School in Northwest D.C.

“The gains we are seeing in these results highlight that more students in our public schools are learning the real-world skills that they will need for future success,” the mayor said. “We will continue to work hard to ensure that more and more of our students are meeting and exceeding expectations on this exam. We will not be satisfied until all of our students are making remarkable gains in those areas.”

The PARCC exam emphasizes a students’ ability to think critically and solve problems. Unlike many standardized tests where students answer multiple-choice questions, the PARCC offers students a problem and grades them on the method used to reache a solution. The PARCC exam is conducted mostly online and is offered in the spring.

Overall, the results of the exam show that in the 2015-2016 school year, there was a two percentage improvement – 25 percent to 27 percent – in English Language Arts (ELA) from the previous school year of 2014-2015 and there was a three percentage improvement in math from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016. Students from the third to eighth grades and high school were tested and the numbers were compiled for the D.C. Office of State Superintendent of Education.

In the District of Columbia public schools 25.5 percent of its students met or exceeded expectations in ELA while 23.9 percent met or exceeded expectations on the math assessments.

“The PARCC scores show that our approach of helping great educators teach rigorous content is producing real results at many of our schools,” Henderson said. “But there is no shortcut to the hard work of improving student outcomes.”

The school that made the greatest gains in the PARCC was Banneker with an increase of 24.1 percent in ELA and 30 percent in math. Banneker, the District’s premier public academic high school, is led by Principal Anita Berger and she was happy with the results. “We already have great teachers and a great curriculum in place, but we were deliberate in our increased offering of Advanced Placement courses, our emphasis on content mastery and relaying the importance of this exam to our students and families,” Berger said.

Black students saw increases in ELA and math as well as Latinos and Asians. Whites were the only group that saw a decline in scores with ELA and Henderson speculated on the reason. “White students aren’t as a whole struggling but there were other factors that prevented them from performing as well as they could on the test,” the chancellor said. Henderson said that when the PARCC was administered this spring, it was at the same time as the AP tests and some White parents, particularly those with children at Wilson High School and School Without Walls, told their children to minimize the exam’s importance.

Henderson said that will not happen again and stressed the PARCC’s importance to the D.C. public school system and parents. “PARCC helps us to measure how college ready students are and how we as a school system are preparing students for post-high school life,” the chancellor said. “The teachers and administrators want to know how to better prepare their students and the parents need to know how prepared their students are for college.”

Henderson did confirm that in the near future the careers of teachers and school-level administrators may be tied to PARCC results. “It shows that we are making great improvements in our schools and that the teachers, principals, and administrators are taking the testing seriously,” D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) said. “With the results we see here, I can tell that we are committed to improve in the long run.” Grosso is the chairman for the council’s Committee on Education.