Saturday, August 15, 2020
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PARCC & homecoming anomalies at a top Md. H.S.

The homecoming court this weekend at one of Maryland’s best public high schools won’t include the typical king and queen, Bethesda Magazine reports.

At Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, “the homecoming court is never really a big deal,” the magazine quoted Ari Gutman, the student body president, as saying. “It’s not really instilled in our school culture. … We decided that instead of having the court, we would just not have it at all, so no one was left out,” he said, referring implicitly to students whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth sex.

The high school was formerly named the Number 1 high school in the state by US News & World Report. But other schools in Montgomery County are moving in a similar direction on the homecoming gender issue, like Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where students announced last month they would use a gender-neutral homecoming court. Students could vote for two boys, two girls, a boy and a girl, transgender, or gender-non-binary students.

In other Walt Whitman High School-related news, results from the standardized tests known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, released by the Maryland State Department of Education on September 27, show that performance on the English 10 test for students at the high school dropped precipitously, compared to the school’s performance in 2015.

At the same time, students performed much better on the algebra 1 PARCC test this year than last, bringing the percentage of test-takers at the school who approached, met, or exceeded the standards being assessed to a rate right around the average for Montgomery County, which is about 10 percent higher than that for the state overall.

I would be remiss not to mention that both swings in the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards—up in algebra 1 from 2015 to 2016 and down in English 10 over the same period—are anomalies, which suggest a possible issue with the tests or the test-taking environment or settings. It frankly stretches credulity to the limit to believe that both

  • The PARCC tests are valid and reliable measures of math and English instruction, and
  • Testing conditions at Walt Whitman High School were essentially similar in 2015 and 2016.
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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