Skip to content

Louisiana “PARCC” Results: Useful for Lining the Litter Box

October 11, 2015

What, exactly, are Louisiana parents receiving when they receive information from Louisiana superintendent John White and his Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) regarding what he continues to call “PARCC” tests?

Nothing trustworthy.

Louisiana is the only supposed “PARCC state” that did not have a contract with official PARCC vendor, Pearson, for the PARCC consortium tests. Louisiana had a left-over testing contract with Data Recognition Corp (DRC), which was only supposed to apply to “interim assessments” through June 30, 2015– which means that it is expired, anyway. (View the DRC contract here.)

Still, on September 17, 2015, John White apparently told The Advocate that Louisiana’s “PARCC” scores were being converted to scale scores a testing vendor:

How those results translate into PARCC’s measuring stick is called the scaled score, which will be between 650 and 850.

Student scores will be placed in one of five categories: minimal command, partial command, moderate command, strong command and distinguished command.

White said the state’s vendor is in the process of converting raw scores into scaled scores, and those results need refining before they are meaningful to educators.

However, by September 17, 2015, the only contract LDOE had for the testing– one with DRC– had been expired for almost three months.

DRC PARCC  LA “PARCC” tests delivered via DRC

So, in September, White knowingly misled the public to believe Louisiana’s “PARCC” tests were being scored by DRC.

September 29, 2015, article in The Lens revealed that not only did LDOE fess up to no contract; LDOE refused to say who, exactly, is handling this “PARCC” test grading and scale score conversion:

The state contracted with Data Recognition Corp., a testing company based in Minnesota, to create and provide the state standardized test for the 2014-15 school year. But that contract ended June 30.

Landry said the company was to provide the state with the information necessary for it to convert raw scores to scaled scores. …

In a Sept. 17 story in The Advocate, White said a vendor was doing the conversion. But department spokesman Barry Landry later said staffers would be doing the work.

Ken Pastorek, another department spokesman, declined to say precisely who is doing the work or how.

Confidence instilling, isn’t it?

There’s more:

For all states except Louisiana, the PARCC states listing notes that the state in question “administered the PARCC assessment”:

Arkansas administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

Colorado administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

The District of Columbia administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

Illinois administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

Louisiana’s state assessment in 2014-15 included items developed through the PARCC process.

Maryland administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

Massachusetts administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

Mississippi administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

New Jersey administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

New Mexico administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.

Rhode Island administered the PARCC assessment in 2014-15. [Emphasis added.]

Still, John White, who in September led the media to believe Louisiana’s “PARCC” scores were being calculated by a vendor, and whose LDOE spokesperson will not disclose exactly who is whipping up Louisiana’s “PARCC” raw and scale scores, wants the public to just trust him that Louisiana’s “PARCC” test is exactly the same test that all PARCC states have taken, according to The Lens:

Students across Louisiana “took the exact same form as did kids across the country,” White said. “Same questions. Same order. Nothing different.” [Emphasis added.]

Even so, White does not want the public to lend any interpretation to the raw score averages included in an October 08, 2015, article in the News-Star.  As The Lens reports:

“All that a raw score is a number of points a kid got on the test out of the points available,” White said, adding that local districts won’t be able to discern what particular questions or concepts students may have had trouble with.

On the page LDOE issued that includes the raw score averages, LDOE includes the following caution:

Below you can find the preliminary average number of points earned by students statewide in a given grade or subject out of the total points available.

Please note that standardized tests are not scored using “percent correct” like a daily quiz. Raw scores (below) represent only the first step in the scoring process for standardized assessments, as they include points earned on tasks of varying degrees of difficulty, requiring students to show varying degrees of proficiency. In no way do the numbers below indicate statewide average scale scores, statewide cut scores, or statewide average achievement levels.

Statewide average scale scores will be presented to BESE October 13, when the board considers statewide cut scores.

The LDOE caution is hypocritical given that the Louisiana public has not even been presented with any formal documentation on the construction and grading of this supposed “PARCC” test.

The issue of the cut scores is also nebulous, as The Lens reports:

After the scores are put on a standard scale, the state board needs to set the cutoff scores for each of the five categories. White said the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider those at its Oct. 13 meeting.

In a call with reporters Monday, White said he would recommend the same cut scores to BESE as several other states are using. …

The state also can set different cutoff levels for its own purposes, aside from the national comparisons for which PARCC was established.

Sooo, the whole point of a PARCC consortium is to compare states on a supposed common assessment, but the PARCC consortium is not a legislative entity, so basically, the states can set alternative cut scores, and the consortium cut scores are only to compare states in a way that American has been doing with NAEP.

Even the PARCC modified “Setting Cut Scores” page on the PARCC website allows for states to basically do what they want with PARCC– including setting their own alternative cut scores:

With the conclusion of performance level setting last month, the recommendations of these 200 or so educators went to the PARCC state education commissioners/superintendents. Together, they approved final threshold scores within the range recommended by the educators. Student scores will range from 650 to 850, with a 700 representing the threshold of Level 2, 725 representing the threshold of Level 3, and 750 representing the threshold of Level 4. The threshold score for Level 5 will vary slightly by test and will be approximately 800. Each state makes its own decisions about possible additional uses of the score results and each state will release results on its own timeline.

For my questioning that states could set their own cut scores, see my September 12, 2015, post on the issue.

Believe it or not, there’s more, Louisiana:

John White made the following statement in the October 08, 2015, News-Star article referenced above:

For PARCC testing, he (White) said, “the raw score formula is going to be very different from year to year and from state to state. That’s why you need to convert it into a scale, and that scale ultimately determines the cut scores because the cut scores will be the point on the scale at which students have typically demonstrated a basic command, a mastery command and so on and so forth.” [Emphasis added.]

Another eyebrow-raiser: If all PARCC states took the same test, “same questions, same order, nothing different,” then having the raw score conversion differ “from state to state” means that a raw score in one state could translate to a different scale score than it does in another state– which adds yet another layer of costly pointlessness to this convoluted exercise of supposedly being able to compare states using a common assessment.

To recap: Louisiana parents have no substantiated reason to believe that the “PARCC” test their children took is the same test that children in other states have taken. Louisiana parents have no reason to believe that raw scores and scale scores are being competently calculated. Louisiana parents have no reason to believe that using the same numbers for scale scores (650 to 850) means that comparisons of Louisiana scale score results can be validly compared with the scale scores of students in other states. Louisiana parents have no reason to believe that the “PARCC” test can offer any trustworthy information regarding how their children are progressing in school. And, finally, Louisiana parents and parents across the nation are still waiting for empirical evidence that the Common Core to which PARCC tests are supposedly aligned is able to deliver on any assurance of “college and career readiness.”

But all of this testing will produce numbers that Louisiana’s under-accountable state superintendent and his LDOE are able to shape into any narrative of success or failure they wish to market at any time and for any purpose.

litter box


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

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Waiting to see who is going to file the indictment and when. Fraudulent misappropriation of local, state and federal tax dollars based on standardized test scores for at least 4 years. Which superintendents will show up to say enough is enough?

  2. This whole business is farcical.
    Many things to say, so here’s just one:
    “But department spokesman Barry Landry later said staffers would be doing the work.”
    By hand? With an abacus? Has the Louisiana Ed Dept computer broken down?………

  3. Evander Bachus permalink

    Some comment was made about the Center for Assessment being involved. They were working with the LDE in the late 90’s when the testing system and accountability were being designed. But at the end of the day, it’ll be what JW wants, not necessarily what the consultant recommends.

  4. Marvelous posing of questions

  5. Christine Langhoff permalink

    Nice graphic! I especially enjoy its wide applicability to so much of what we hear about edu-reform.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s