PARCC is great because PARCC is great

As PARCC releases scores reports to schools and parents, it has begun an active PR campaign stating how great the test and the reports are. The blogs and videos go something like this: PARCC is great because PARCC is great and the following logic is then provided:

  • PARCC is better than previous tests because it moves beyond multiple choice bubble tests.

  • PARCC raises the bar

  • PARCC will offer a clear picture, diagnostic information and show students’ strengths and weaknesses.

  • PARCC will be able to provide students college and career readiness guidance.

The problem with each of these is that there is absolutely no evidence of such from the score reports or from research. Moreover the above points lack any specifics about the test itself. The facts about PARCC are such:

  1. The claim that PARCC has moved beyond multiple choice bubble tests is partially true but still an overwhelming majority of PARCC questions are Type I (29 of 36 in grade 8) which are machine gradable and ultimately very similar to multiple choice questions.

  2. There are approximately 40 total questions on the PARCC exam in any given grade. The 2016 summative PARCC guides are here for verification purposes. For example the grade 8 assessment has 36 total questions. How can so few questions provide diagnostic information and strengths/weaknesses on the standards of the grade level? Moreover, PARCC score report provide each student whether they meet the standard of mathematical reasoning (a crucial standard) but there are a grand total of just 3 mathematical reasoning (type III) questions on the test and thus such a claim is ridiculous.

  3. No student who has taken PARCC is now in college so how can PARCC claim that its test results will tell us whether students are prepared for college? There is no research on this test that makes it a predictor of such future success. Moreover, we know from research that SAT/ACT scores provide little information about success in college so why would PARCC?

  4. Lastly, the score reports show five levels with arbitrary scaled cut scores between 650 and 850. However, PARCC refuses to release how many raw points are necessary for student to earn for each level. Although some raw point information is available on the web, why does PARCC not want such information about raw points to be released? Is it the case that 40% of the raw points is all that is needed for level 4 and such would clearly embarrass the powers at PARCC? See here from Ohio and here from Louisiana for some raw point data.

Finally, standardized tests like PARCC will never raise the bar, it is only rigorous curriculum, instruction and use of formative assessments practices that will make the different in students’ educational fortunes. It is unfortunate that teachers and parents continue to be provided with myths about the PARCC assessment and it shameful that PARCC continues to distort the facts.

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