Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Don't even bother reading PARCC's press releases

I received a press release that started out like this:

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a 19-state consortium working together to create next generation assessments released additional sample items for both English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The sample items show how PARCC is developing tasks to measure the critical content and skills found in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The sample items have undergone PARCC’s rigorous review process to ensure quality and demonstrate the content that will be on the assessments in 2014-2015.

Both Illinois and Maryland are part of PARCC, but unfortunately, the “19-state” count mentioned includes Washington, D.C., which isn’t actually a state, Indiana and Pennsylvania, which have drastically scaled back participation or are strongly considering dropping participation in the testing consortium altogether, and Florida, where political leaders in the two houses of the state’s legislature have asked the state to pull out of PARCC completely.

But what’s a little sloppiness, after all? It’s only a multistate testing consortium.

And all these states are still on board with the Common Core, so one might ask, As long as kids are getting more rigor in their classrooms, led by the Common Core, what does it matter if the states are participating in the testing consortia?

The only answer I can come up with is that the driving force behind the closed-door approach to the development of the Common Core was to rein in the variations in testing that were taking place from one state to another under No Child Left Behind. The Common Core itself, is just a document of standards, expectations of what students at certain grade levels should understand. For example, in math, it specifies what types of problems third graders should be able to solve on a test.

When states are allowed to develop their own tests, we start seeing variations from one state to another, and a third grader in Mississippi who moves to Massachusetts finds himself two or three years behind and getting Ds when he used to get As and Bs. Many states fiddled around with their definitions of “grade-level proficiency” under No Child Left Behind, and that needed to be brought under control.

So now, PARCC has released a second set of sample test items that the consortium claims have gone through a rigorous review process. What a disaster!!

My analysis of a few of these items can be found here, but my strong advice is for PARCC to take better control of item development before additional states withdraw, cutting their losses at the $160 million American taxpayers spent on this train wreck. The items released in this second round are much worse than the items the state of Maryland currently uses on its standardized tests and has released to the public, and the state’s continued support for this mockery of testing known as PARCC simply defies logic.

Look, I remain a standard bearer for the Common Core: if developing standards to promote higher thinking is what you set out to do, you could do a lot worse than the Common Core. But the items being released by PARCC, which will presumably make up the tests given by the consortium, do not address the rigor seen on almost every line of the Common Core standards. And if that’s what we’re going to do, we might as well abandon the Common Core.

There’s still time to turn it around, although a backlash is developing in many states against the Common Core and once test items get into the mix, it’s very difficult to pull them out.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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