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More on PARCC and Its Cut Scores

September 12, 2015

On September 11, 2015, I wrote a post entitled, “PARCC Cut Scores to Differ by State?”

In that post, I noted that PARCC was reluctant to publicize its cut scores. Reporter Catherine Gewertz of EdWeek first noted the absence of the full set of PARCC cut scores in her September 10, 2015, post. However, she later updated her post because PARCC decided to produce the missing cut scores. From Gewertz’s update:

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.

Thus, it reads like the PARCC cut scores are a done deal. However, when I read the PARCC website page also dated September 10, 2015, entitled, “Setting Cut Scores”, I noticed this bit of information at the end of the page:

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. 

So, the work of the PARCC committee setting PARCC cut scores is to “go back to the PARCC states.” And it is with the PARCC states’ superintendents that the “final call” will be made. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the PARCC cut-score-setting is not a done deal.

Furthermore, the information above does not indicate that these superintendents will arrive at a single set of cut scores to be utilized in all of their states.

I concluded that the superintendents could be acting independently and could arrive at their own determinations of cut scores for their states. When noting the collective work of PARCC states, the PARCC MOU uses the term “the Consortium,” which is not the term used above.

On September 12, 2015, Teach for America (New Orleans) alum (1991-92) and PARCC communications director David Connerty-Marin, who Gewertz identified in her EdWeek article as “PARCC spokesman,” left the following comment on my September 11, 2015 post in which I concluded that PARCC states could set their own independent cut scores:

Mercedes, the PARCC states set common cut scores together and adopted common PARCC performance levels. Each state will release results on its own timeline.

So, even though the PARCC web page, “Setting Cut Scores,” dated September 10, 2015, notes that “PARCC states” have yet to make that “final call” on PARCC cut scores, Connerty-Marin has written a comment to the effect that the PARCC cut scores are an agreed-upon done deal, and that all “PARCC states” have already decided that the cut scores that Gewertz publicized on September 10, 2015, will do for all PARCC states.

My response to Connerty-Marin’s comment:

Then let PARCC note as much clearly on its website. As it stands, that final bit of info that I cite does not clearly support what you have just written.

So, are the PARCC cut scores a done deal, or will they change? If they change, will all PARCC states agree to abide by a single set of cut scores, or will some PARCC states alter the cut scores?

We will see.

However, a few reminders and observations regarding the PARCC game as taken from the PARCC MOU. Here is the first:

The Consortium will adopt a common set of achievement standards no later than the summer of 2015.

Thus, one could conclude that no PARCC state is supposed to veer from the consortium-agreed-upon cut scores.

Here’s another:

A Governing state must be committed to statewide implementation and administration of the assessment system developed by the Consortium no later than the 2014-15 school year, subject to the availability of funds.

Note that Commissioner Mitchell Chester of Massachusetts is the PARCC governing board chair, and Massachusetts did not administer PARCC statewide in 2014-15.

One more:

A Governing state must be committed to using the assessment results in its accountability system, including school accountability determinations; teacher and leader evaluations; and teaching, learning, and program improvement.

Thus, a primary purpose of PARCC assessments is to test schools and teachers, which makes the setting of cut scores that much more powerful. And do not be deceived by superintendents stating that this year, the test results are only being used to set a baseline.

That baseline is meant to turn into high-stakes consequences in years to come, with the added perk that the “American education is failing” narrative will prod the public into believing that what is best is to hand public education over to education businesses that worship “market forces.”

A final word to David Connerty-Marin, PARCC communications director:

Clarify the information on your website. If you mean “PARCC consortium,” state as much. If you mean that PARCC cut scores have been finalized, state as much, and clearly note what those cut scores are.

And do explain how it is that Mitchell Chester remains chair of the PARCC governing board when Massachusetts has clearly violated the PARCC MOU.

question marks


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.

both books

  1. PARCC’s slogan should be “We obfuscate.”

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The PARCC double speak is symptom of the dysfunction and likely demise of PARCC. Is also consistent with the disparate attempts to shore up the Common Core and tests amidst growing and justified criticism aided by your book and the opt-outers and counter narratives that do get some traction, even in the midst of mighty efforts and investments in spin control from the promoters of this agenda.

  3. The Queen of Parccs “Scores mean what I say they mean.”
    New VAM = VAPM = Value Added Play-Doh Modeling
    We have no faith in the Value, no idea what it is Added to, and it can be indefinitely reModeled.

  4. I have sat in numerous public meetings wherein JW explicitly and clearly stated that HE would set cut scores each year after the graded tests are received by his office and that those cut scores would reflect a steady increase over10 years until “proficiency” no longer just represents mediocrity but perfection. My hope is that as our children achieve nirvana he will experience samsara.

  5. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you again for keeping me informed, so I can share this insane reality of how the “accountability” system works. We shall see…

  6. Terry permalink

    Years ago in Texas (pre-Common Core but still Big State Test), it was discovered that not only were cut scores manipulated after the fact; but, the Spanish-language test cuts scores were roughly five to ten points below the corresponding (and presumed equivalent) English-language test. Thus penalizing English-language students!,

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