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PARCC and SBAC States Agree to Deliver Student-level Data to USDOE

September 9, 2014

In September 2010, two assessment consortia “won” federal Race to the Top (RTTT) money for the “design, development, and evaluation of the assessment system” known as Race to the Top Assessment (RTTA): The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

PARCC received $170 million, and SBAC, $160 million, plus an additional $16 million to each consortium to “support efforts to help participating States successfully transition to common standards and assessments.”

Their award letters can be found here for PARCC and here for SBAC.

In the award letters, both PARCC and SBAC were expected by January 7, 2011, to “negotiate and complete a final cooperative agreement” with the federal government regarding the usage of the “common standards” assessments.

The fine print for taking college-and-career-ready dough from the feds.

Both cooperative agreements can be found here for PARCC and here for SBAC.

I have heard individuals ask about whether one of the requirements of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is the release of student-level data to the federal government. I have heard pro-CCSS officials dismiss this idea as unfounded.

Not so.

PARCC and SBAC are the federally-funded, CCSS-assessment consortia. In order to receive those federal millions for CCSS assessment development, both consortia had to agree to deliver student-level data to USDOE.

Data is control, and USDOE wants control over state education affairs. (If you doubt USDOE’s desire for control over states, google “Arne Duncan NCLB waivers” and do a bit of reading.)

Don’t let the pro-CCSS crowd corner you with semantics: CCSS is wed to the USDOE-funded, consortia-developed CCSS assessments, and both federally-funded consortia have agreed to deliver student-level data to USDOE. So, yes indeed, CCSS is a vehicle for USDOE’s student-level data gathering ambitions.

Consider Appendix F (RTTA Program Requirements), Item 3:

An eligible applicant awarded a grant under this category must—  

Work with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that result from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies. [Emphasis added.]

Of course, there is also a footnote about “complying with FERPA”– whatever that means these days. FERPA appears to be an ever-loosening “security.”

So. There you have it: Both consortia agree to deliver “student level data” to USDOE– and not only for the four years of the RTTA grant– but “ongoing” delivery.

The RTTA money will be long gone, and the states that took it will continue to be indebted to USDOE to shuttle endless student-level data to the feds. What a deal.

Allow me to offer a smidge more from that *cooperative* agreement.

There is also Item 6, the stipulation about making “assessment content (i.e., assessments and assessment items) developed with funds from this grant category freely available to States, technology platform providers, and others that request it for purposes of administering assessments….”

That explains Louisiana’s “free” PARCC test items— free items paid for by the federal government.

You read it right.

No controlling intentions attached to those “free” items, I am sure. USDOE is just being nice.

One more item for this post:

As education historian Diane Ravitch noted in her September 8, 2014, interview with Tavis Smiley, USDOE is using the CCSS assessment consortia it has funded as vehicles to push school districts into pouring money into technology (Item 7):

An eligible applicant awarded a grant under this category must—

Use technology to the maximum extent appropriate to develop, administer, and score assessments and report assessment results. [Emphasis added.]

What is baffling is that those who complain about the amount of money spent on American education in the wake of dissatisfying international test results are now pushing a test-driven reform that requires additional billions in technology expenditures (see also here and here and here) but that is expected to flunk more kids.

When the dropout rate increases under CCSS despite the billions pumped into technology prepping for the CCSS assessments, that’ll show us overpaid teachers just how bad we really are.

After all, USDOE will have the “ongoing,” student-level data to prove it– data that it also requires PARCC and SBAC states to use “to inform determinations of school effectiveness [and] determinations of individual principal and teacher effectiveness for purposes of evaluation” among other nifty test-score-centered, classroom-controlling ends. (Article I.B., “Results Expected.”)

We can be failures anew, and privatizing reform (and, of course, USDOE) can be *right* about us once again from its deluded perch.


balancing act



Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education



  1. So much information…thank you!!

    On a different but related topic, do you have a copy of the original RttT contract that governors and state superintendents signed? And, have you written on its contents before?

    Please know that your tireless efforts are sincerely appreciated!! -Dan Kenley

  2. ColoMom permalink

    …and she does it again. Brilliant! Mercedes cannot thank you enough for pulling the facts together in one nice succinct package. Cannot wait to share this.

  3. Jenny permalink

    Since our new state law says personally identifiable information cannot be shared, do these tests violate our state law now? Hope so!!

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