PARCC Cut Scores to Differ by PARCC State?
In Spring 2015, a number of states and DC administered Pearson-vended PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests, supposedly aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which CCSS proponents assume surely translates into the well-marketed “college and career readiness.”
Ten states and DC entered into contracts with Pearson for the 2015 PARCC tests, with just over half of Massachusetts districts choosing to use PARCC. As for Louisiana, it had no contract with Pearson for PARCC and instead gave tests that PARCC now nebulously describes as “included items developed though the PARCC process.”
That was spring 2015. As for 2016, Louisiana will not be giving an entire PARCC test. (The 2015 legislature forbade contracting with PARCC for 2016 assessments and put a limit that less than half of 2016 assessment items could be PARCC items.) Too, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Ohio will not participate in PARCC in 2016.
So, as of this writing, for 2016, PARCC is down to seven states and DC.
Keep in mind that the whole point of PARCC was to provide ueber-standardized assessments to accompany ueber-standardized CCSS. The US Department of Education (USDOE) paid for both PARCC and Smarter Balanced to somehow “help meet the President’s goal of restoring, by 2020, the nation’s position as the world leader in college graduates.”
USDOE just knew that CCSS tied to PARCC/Smarter Balanced would magically translate into America’s Leading the World in College Grads.
Despite USDOE certainty that CCSS-tied PARCC would be instrumental in ensuring USA world educational dominance, on September 10, 2015, Catherine Gewertz of EdWeek reported that PARCC cowered in the face of supposedly-finalized, cut-score publicity:
PARCC set cut scores for its tests but did not want to publicize all of the cut scores it set.
However, before the end of the day on September 10, 2015, PARCC decided to release all of the cut scores they set. Gewertz reports:
UPDATE: PARCC decided Thursday afternoon to release the rest of the cut scores. Updated “mock” score reports on its website, which had earlier had placeholder numbers for cut scores, now show the actual cut scores the board approved, according to PARCC assessment chief Jeff Nellhaus. They are: 700 to score at Level 2, 725 to score at Level 3, and, as previously reported, 750 to score at Level 4. The cut point for Level 5 will vary somewhat by grade and subject, but will be around 803, Nellhaus said during a webinar for the Education Writers Association.
Even though PARCC fessed up the its entire set of cut scores, it did not offer details on how many students would fall into each score level. Given that PARCC used actual 2015 test results to set its cut scores, publicizing proportions of students “expected” to score in each score level would not be projections but actual results reported in sum– and before each PARCC state reported its state results– assuming that all 2015 PARCC tests were examined in setting the cut scores.
There is another issue that likely contributed to PARCC’s initial unwillingness to release its cut scores:
It appears that the PARCC states still get to decide individually to reset those cut scores.
Consider this statement from Gewertz’s original September 10, 2015, post:
At a meeting in Washington, PARCC’s governing board voted to approve the cut scores for the English/language arts and math tests in grades 3-8. But it disclosed only one of the scores that mark the thresholds between the levels of mastery. On a scale of 650 to 850, students will need to score a 750 to reach Level 4, which in grades 3-8 connotes a “strong command” of the standards, and in high school signifies college readiness. …
PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin would say only that states are still finalizing their data, so it’s too early to disclose how students performed on the test, which was given for the first time this past spring.
Question: Why would states’ “finalizing their data” prevent publicizing a set of cut scores that was supposedly just finalized?
Answer: Because PARCC states have the option to change the cut scores.
Below is the final statement from the PARCC web page dated September 10, 2015, entitled, “Setting Cut Scores”:
With the conclusion of performance level setting last week, the work of these 200 or so educators will go to the PARCC states, whose state education commissioners/superintendents will make the final call on what level or work shows each level of performance. That, in turn, sets the stage for the release of the first-ever PARCC score results this fall. [Emphasis added.]
So. All of that standardization that USDOE tried to promote in purchasing PARCC assessments to accompany CCSS now debuts as nine states and DC fully contracting in 2015 with Pearson for a PARCC test with cut scores that in the end are allowed to vary by PARCC state.
What a waste of resources.
See also my September 12, 2015, follow-up post, More on PARCC and Its Cut Scores.
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.
She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.