Engaging High School Math Students and Teachers Through a Proficency-Based Assessment And Reassessment Of Learning Outcomes (PARLO)

March 2010

In 2010, researchers from 21PSTEM and Villanova received a six-year $2.4 million award from the National Science Foundation to conduct a mixed methods randomized control trial (RCT) of 31 schools to examine whether a proficiency-based assessment program leads to increases in mathematical understanding, achievement, and confidence in secondary students. The study is examining the efficacy of an assessment system that emphasizes students attaining proficiency or better on a shared set of Learning Outcomes. If a student does not attain proficiency on a Learning Outcome, he/she will have subsequent opportunities (reassessment) to learn the material that he/she has not yet mastered with the expectation of demonstrating proficiency (or better).

Research questions include: Does PARLO increase in 9th grade students’ achievement and engagement in mathematics? Will teachers’ sustained use of PARLO foster changes in teachers’ conceptions about: (a) how students learn mathematics; and (b) the capacity of students to achieve proficiency in Algebra.

Emergent Findings

  Teachers experiencing greater success implementing PARLO embrace a pedagogical position compatible with PARLO’s philosophy about how students learn.
  Teachers who have implemented classroom practices, routines, and habits that support PARLO appear to be more successful. In those classrooms where PARLO is going well, teachers appear to have questioned their existing practices and analyzed their routines in an effort to determine which practices are effective and where modifications are needed.
  Teachers who have identified a manageable number of Learning Outcomes (LOs) per making period, have shared these LOs with their students, and have made them visible in their classrooms, seem to be experiencing greater buy-in from their students.
  The ‘learning contract’ between teacher and student is explicit and understood. Teachers have clearly defined PARLO to their students and have defined their roles and responsibilities in a proficiency-based classroom.
  PARLO teachers allow students to work more at their own pace (+0.50 vs. –0.04, p<0.05).
  PARLO teachers were more likely to use real world problems (+0.54 vs. 0.00, p<0.05).
  PARLO teachers were more likely to use formative assessment (+0.93 vs. -0.20, p<0.01)

Fieldwork ended in June 2013, and the team is now focused on analyzing four years’ worth of qualitative and quantitative data. A final report will be submitted to the National Science Foundation in Feb. 2016.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Nancy Lawrence
Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathleen Krier

Project Manager (emeritus): Ms. Barbara Stankus

Partners

Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael Posner (Villanova University) 

Funding Source: National Science Foundation​

  • Start Date:  March, 2010

  • Duration:  6 years

  • Total Award:  $2,444,714.00

  • Location:  Regional

  • Fiscal Agent:  21PSTEM

Publications/Dissemination

Lawrence, N., Krier, K, & Posner, M. (2015, March). Engaging H.S. math students & teachers through a Proficiency-based Assessment and Reassessment System of Learning Outcomes (PARLO) system. Poster presented at the School District of Philadelphia Research, Policy, and Practice Conference. Philadelphia, PA.

Lawrence, N., Krier, K, & Posner, M. (2014, March). Collaborating with 9th grade math teachers to implement a Proficiency-based Assessment & Reassessment of Learning Outcomes (PARLO) system. Poster presented at the School District of Philadelphia Research, Policy, and Practice Conference. Philadelphia, PA.

Posner, M., Lawrence, N., Krier, K. & Ellis, J. (2014, April). Early results from Proficiency-based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes system, an NSF-funded RCT. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia, PA.

Krier, K. & O’Connell, N. (2013). Assessing what they know: The obsolesce of traditional grading in STEM. Presentation session presented at the annual Scaling STEM Conference, North Carolina New Schools, Raleigh, NC.

Lawrence, N.R. (2011, April). The plot thickens: Asking teachers to change their instructional and assessment practices. Paper presented at annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Krier, K. (2011). Proficiency-based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes (PARLO): Preliminary Findings. Poster presentation at the Pennsylvania Education Research Association (PERA) conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Krier, K. (2010, October 29). Engaging high school math students and teachers through a Proficiency-based Assessment and Reassessment of Learning Outcomes (PARLO) system. Poster presentation at the Psychology of Mathematics Education – North America (PME-NA) conference, Columbus, Ohio.

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