Forget Test Scores: Let’s Rank Those PARCC States Now
According to Louisiana superintendent John White, a primary sell for Louisiana giving its illegitimate version of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is as follows:
For the first time, parents will be able to compare their children’s skills with the performance of students in other states.
So, once the next school year begins, parents will know how their children compared to children who completed the Pearson-contracted PARCC (which Louisiana is not part of) absent any detailed context of across-state differences in social and economic systems and with no ability whatsoever to “make” one state “resemble” another on any given desirable characteristic.
But this is test-score-driven “reform,” and its obsession with test scores must needs lead to some kind of comparison– hence the drive to compare among PARCC states just because that’s how it is supposed to be in the corporate reformer mind.
The PARCC consortium website continues to identify 12 states and DC as “PARCC states”: Arkansas, Colorado, DC, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
However, a common listing does not comparability make.
New York is administering a different Pearson test this year, not PARCC; Massachusetts is only giving PARCC in some of its districts; Mississippi withdrew from using PARCC assessments in January 2015 and has contracted with Pearson for “emergency” exams to replace PARCC tests for 2015. And, of course, there’s Louisiana— a state that is giving its pencil-and-paper “PARCC” tests– tests created not by Pearson but by Data Recognition Corp (DRC).
So, if one considers which of the PARCC states are actually administering (or, shall we say, offering to administer) the official, Pearson-contracted PARCC assessments to all of their students in grades 3 through 8, that number is down to eight states and DC: Arkansas, Colorado, DC, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
Of course, there is also the effect of the opt-out/refuse the test movement that has put a notable dent in the number of test takers in New Jersey. Opting out/refusing the test in New Mexico has also made the national news.
Even if there were a useful reason for comparing student assessment results across PARCC states and DC, such comparisons are already problematic before the first PARCC assessment is scored.
Moreover, there will be no “national comparison” of PARCC states on the Pearson PARCC assessments if for no other reason than there are so few PARCC states. Even 12 states and DC is hardly “national.”
However, since the likes of John White want to “compare” PARCC states, then far be it from me to obstruct such a highly-publicized albeit ill-defined “goal.”
I will help them.
And they won’t even have to wait until the next school year to pore over the results.
For the remainder of this post, I offer comparisons of the PARCC states (and DC) listed to date on the PARCC consortium website.
The selection of comparison data is based purely on my own interest.
PARCC States/DC by Adjusted Disposable Income
My first comparison involves ranking PARCC states/DC by state/locality-price-adjusted average disposable income for 2012. (In other words, the average individual income after taxes, as such has been adjusted for cost of living in a particular region):
There we go. A ranking of PARCC states/DC, and no teacher lost her/his job, and no school was closed due to the results.
Ranking PARCC States/DC by Population Density
My second comparison concerns ranking PARCC states/DC by population density (population per square mile; 2010 census data):
Again, no jobs lost. Furthermore, no students will develop a dislike for school from being test-drill-“educated.”
Ranking PARCC States/DC by College-grad Underemployment
The next ranking and the two that follow are my favorites since I have been repeatedly told that America needs more college graduates. It’s not that simple.
Immediately below are rankings of PARCC state metropolitan areas (and DC) by percentage of underemployment of college grads with a bachelors or higher (data taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics and US Census, third quarter, 2014).
Keep in mind that all cities/metro areas are not equally populated.
The percentage point differences represent the difference between supply and demand, with supply exceeding demand. In other words, in order to work in these cities, college grads have to take jobs beneath their educational levels:
MA: Barnstable, 13.5%; Boston, 11.0%; Worcester, 7.0%
DC, MD: Washington, DC metro outgrowth, 12.4%;
MD: Baltimore, Towson, 4.8%
CO: Boulder, 9.3%; Fort Collins, 8.4%; Denver, Aurora, 6.8%; Greeley, 5.6%; Colorado Springs, 3.8%
NY, NJ: New York City outgrowth, 7.6%
NY: Rochester, 2.2%
NJ: Trenton, Ewing, 4.8%; Ocean City, 4.1%; Camden, 3.7%; Atlantic City, 2.1%
IL: Chicago outgrowth, 4.9%
OH: Columbus, 4.3%
NM: Sante Fe, 2.6%
RI, MA: Providence, New Bedford, Fall River, 2.6%
Rather than be unemployed or underemployed, one option is for college students to delay graduation and instead become lingering students– an option that South Korean college grads are choosing in the face of the highest youth unemployment in 14 years in 2014.
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan thinks South Korea has it made because they score higher than American students on international tests.
But back to those PARCC-state-cities with high college-grad underemployment:
What is notable about each of the cities/metro areas listed above is that each also has a need for highly-skilled workers in professions that require a high school diploma or less. This brings me to my next ranking:
Ranking Cities in PARCC States (and DC):
Need for Non-collegiate Skilled Workers
The percentages below represent the demand-to-supply need for skilled, non-college (including non-high school-completion) workers. The closer to zero, the more balanced the need is for such workers with the supply. The higher the percentage, the greater the need.
The cities immediately below are the same cities listed above in the section for high percentages of underemployed college grads with a bachelors or higher:
MA: Barnstable, 9.5%; Boston, 3.6%; Worcester, 1.7%
DC, MD: Washington, DC metro outgrowth, 5.8%;
MD: Baltimore, Towson, 1.2%
CO: Boulder, 8.3%; Fort Collins, 11.1%; Denver, Aurora, 3.4%; Greeley, 8.3%; Colorado Springs, 6.3%
NY, NJ: New York City outgrowth, 0.4%
NY: Rochester, 3.9%
NJ: Trenton, Ewing, 1.0%; Ocean City, 0.3%; Camden, 0.8%; Atlantic City, 2.2%
IL: Chicago outgrowth, 2.7%
OH: Columbus, 2.2%
NM: Sante Fe, 0.9%
RI, MA: Providence, New Bedford, Fall River, 1.2%
In addition to the cities/metro areas listed above, the following cities also have a notable need for skilled workers in professions requiring a high school diploma or less:
IL: Champaign, Urbana, 6.4%; Peoria, 5.2%; Decatur, 4.0%
CO: Grand Junction, 3.7%
NY: Kingston, 3.2%; Syracuse, 2.6%; Buffalo, Niagara Falls, 2.4%
Not all skilled employment requires college or even graduation from high school.
Rankings of Cities in PARCC States (and DC) Needing More College Grads
Rankings below are for PARCC state metropolitan areas in need of college grads (percentage of demand to supply, or underemployment in reverse). In such situations, jobs requiring a bachelors or higher might somehow be filled or otherwise managed, but they are not filled with individuals holding four-year-college-or-higher educational qualifications:
MD: Cumberland, 14.9%; Hagerstown, 9.5%; Salisbury, 8.8%
IL: Danville, 14.3%, Kankakee, Bradley, 11.5%; Rockford, 6.3%; Springfield, 5.6%; Decatur, 4.1%
AR: Pine Bluff, 13.2%, Fort Smith, 11.9%; Hot Springs, 10.2%; Jonesboro, 8.1%; Little Rock, 5.6%; Fayetteville, 2.6%
OH: Lima, 13.0%; Mansfield, 10.0%; Springfield, 9.7%; Steubenville, 8.9%, Sandusky, 7.3%; Toledo, 5.6%; Dayton, 5.4%; Youngstown, 4.9%
NM: Farmington, 12.0%; Las Cruces, 7.5%; Albuquerque, 4.0%
CO: Pueblo, 11.6%; Grand Junction, 3.4%
LA: Alexandria, 11.3%; Houma, Bayou Cane, Thibodaux, 10.2%; Shreveport, Bossier City, 8.3%; New Orleans, 6.7%; Lake Charles, 5.6%; Lafayette, 5.4%; Monroe, 5.3%; Baton Rouge, 3.5%
NJ: Vineland, Milville, Bridgeton, 9.5%
MS: Gulfport, 9.2%; Pascagoula, 9.2%; Hattiesburg, 4.8%
NY: (Elmira) 8.8%; Utica, Rome, 8.4%; Binghamton, 3.9%; Ithaca, 2.9%
Maybe we just need to force those underemployed college grads in some cities to move to other cities and call it “problem solved.”
Nevertheless, I’m sure that pesky “freedom to choose” will just get in the way of such a ready solution.
Of course, the proper course of action involves investigating the possible reasons for a dearth of college grads in these cities. Is the pay too low? Cost of living too high? Are there safety/health concerns? Geography/locale otherwise undesirable? Social and other life-quality opportunities somehow limited?
Offering ten-plus hours of PARCC testing to students in grades 3 through 8 is about as useful to understanding and addressing these issues as is a salad plate for holding soup.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.