Monday, October 12, 2015

Conversion Tables Reveals White Lowering the Bar. . . . Again!

Release of Secret Conversion Tables for PARCC Forced by Public Records Request. 

Louisiana citizens will be the first ones in the PARCC testing group to see the critical conversion tables, that are used for producing the scale scores.  It only happened because of a formal public records request and the threat of a lawsuit against White for withholding public records.

The 33 member citizens public records request filed on October 1, included a request for a copy of the conversion tables for converting raw PARCC scores to the new PARCC scale scores. Those conversion tables were finally released by White today along with a calculation of the percentage of students scoring Basic, Mastery and Advanced. The newspapers will give you the percentages of students deemed performing satisfactory by the setting of the cut scores but the subject of this post is the lowering of the academic bar once again by Superintendent White.

Those conversion tables reveal absurdly low cut scores for ratings of Basic and Mastery. The percentage of students getting a rating or Basic or above depend upon BESE adopting the lowest passing scores in the history of Accountability testing in Louisiana! (by far)

Would you believe that White's cut scores for Basic performance on the 3rd grade English-Language Arts test would require students to only get 30% of the available raw points on the test correct to get a rating of Basic?

A student can receive a rating of Basic on 7th grade math by getting a grand total of 23% of the raw points. A similar level of absurdity of White's "raising the bar" is reached when the conversion tables reveal a cut score of 22% on the 8th grade math test.

The highest cut score for Basic among the 12 PARCC/Common Core tests is the pitiful standard of 37% on the 8th grade ELA test.

When superintendents and citizens started asking for the old fashioned raw scores on these controversial tests, White protested that only scale scores were useful in describing student performance to parents. So with the adoption of these scale scores by BESE, parents of a child who got only 22% of the math questions right would be awarded 725 points out of a possible total of 850 points and declared to be performing at a level of Basic! How does that make any sense? But the strangest result of all is that students who score zero raw points up to 4 points out of a possible 80 points will all get a scale score of 650 points!

I believe that this highly skewed and misleading point system was developed by the PARCC Consortium after they discovered that students all over the country would have totally flunked these tests by any other rational scoring system. So they dreamed up this phony scale system to pretend that most students had done OK on the tests. They never intended to release the raw scores to anyone, and certainly never intended for any citizen to see the conversion tables for producing the scale scores from the raw scores. Remember what I said some time ago about making sausage.

So I suppose the rubber stamp members of BESE will hold their noses tomorrow and approve White's absurdly low cut scores camouflaged as scale scores. This is how the multi-million dollar testing industry maintains control of our schools and siphons off scarce tax dollars even when they saddle our students with defective tests. Remember how the big banks got a free ride with our tax dollars even when their fraudulent home loans almost crashed the economy of the world? The same is true when the experiments on our children by the testing company fail.

Here are the various forms by which PARCC cut scores can be reported:

  • 3rd grade ELA- Basic = 725 scale score = 29.6/100 = 30% of possible points
  • 3rd grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 27/81 = 33% of possible points
  • 4th grade ELA- Basic = 725 scale score = 32/104 = 31% of possible points
  • 4th grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 30.4/82 = 37% of possible points
  • 5th grade ELA - Basic = 725 scale score = 29/104 = 28% of possible points
  • 5th grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 27.4/82 = 33% of possible points
  • 6th grade ELA - Basic = 725 scale score = 40/137 = 27% of possible points
  • 6th grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 22/82 = 27% of possible points
  • 7th grade ELA - Basic = 725 scale score = 39/135 = 29% of possible points
  • 7th grade Math - Basic - 725 scale score = 19/82 = 23% of possible points
  • 8th grade ELA - Basic - 725 scale score = 51/137 = 37% of possible points
  • 8th grade Math - Basic - 725 scale score = 17.3/80 = 22% of possible points

I am convinced that these tests are not valid for measuring our student performance or for rating our schools.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Who Really Failed the Honesty Test about PARCC?

Barry Irwin of the big business lobbying group, Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL), has written an opinion editorial in the Lafayette Advertiser where he assumes that some BESE members and some school groups want to hide the truth about Louisiana student performance from the public. The title of the article is Will We Pass the Honesty Test When Scores are Revealed. Actually, as this blog has demonstrated, it was John White who really wanted to hide the truth from Louisiana parents by withholding the raw scores of the PARCC test.

It was a public records request by a group of parents, 4 BESE members, 5 legislators and other citizens that forced the true test scores to be released. Those are reported on the blog post below. It was never necessary to use the PARCC consortium's confusing point system to know how our students did on the test. The ugly truth is in the raw scores given below. That particular post according to my stat-counter has been read by over 20,000 Louisiana citizens and educators to date. We can handle the truth! even though White and his friends at CABL wanted to keep us in the dark.

The action before BESE next Tuesday is not just the approval of White's phony scale cut scores. The action being recommended to BESE would usurp all the power of BESE to set testing standards and hand over all decision making relative to scores and even test construction to John White  and his testing companies. The action recommended removes all the old safeguards to require tests to meet certain criteria for grading. Once that is approved, White controls all the test construction and the grading and the judgements of what is basic, mastery and advanced.

We have shown on this blog how White already has manipulated state test scores without consulting BESE. If these new rules pass, White will have a free hand to make apparent student performance go up or down depending on his purpose at the moment. Did you notice that he had manipulated an increase in the LEAP, iLEAP and even the end-of-course tests leading up to this election so that his supporters on BESE could get reelected. But now it serves his purposes to give the perception that our scores are down, so that he can orchestrate their revival in the coming years.

Here is my response to the Barry Irwin article included in the "Comments" section of the Advertiser article:

Actually, State Superintendent John White has already failed the honesty test concerning the release of student scores for the PARCC (Common Core) tests. White was desparately trying to hide the real performance of our students on the test by having BESE adopt his new scoring system for the test which runs from 650 points to 850 points. That system would give even a student who made a flat zero on the test a score of 650. All the other student scores would be skewed similarly to make it look like our students did better than they really did on this poorly designed test.

We already know how students did on the test since the state was forced by a public records request to release the raw scores last week. The average score on the twelve tests given in English and Math was 38%. This means that 72% of the test questions were answered incorrectly on average statewide. This is a terrible result that I believe happened because the Common Core Standards and the test itself were so poorly designed.

Louisiana is not alone in this result. Students in Ohio who normally do a lot better on national tests than Louisiana students also had dismal results. Ohio has already decided to stop giving this highly flawed test in the future.

But Barry Irwin and John White are desperately clinging to this test which is now only going to be given in about only 10 states and still trying to claim that it will compare our students with other states. That is false!

Thank goodness there is one test that is going to continue being given to samples of students in each state accross the nation that really does compare our student performance fairly. The NAEP test does show that student performance accross the nation varies inversely with the level of poverty of the families. So Louisiana is near the bottom even though some of the big business supported candidates for election to BESE claim that our test scores have been rising.

So Irwin's real purpose in writing this editorial is to try to save a highly flawed set of standards called the Common Core that are increasingly being rejected by state after state. If Irwin and White succeed, ironically the test may just allow Louisiana to compare with a dwindling number of states foolish enough to continue using defective standards. That is the real honest truth about the issue before BESE this Tuedsay.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Finally, We Get the PARCC Test Averages for the State!

The following is the data finally released by the LDOE on the raw score averages for the 12 PARCC like tests given in the Spring of 2015. No wonder it practically took an act of the Legislature to finally get the scores released. These are worst average scores I have ever seen on a major group of tests! Go to this link at Louisiana Believes to get the original document grudgingly produced by John White.

Breaking News! Reporter Bonnie Bolden of the Monroe Newsstar published this story (Click here) today explaining why our group of 33 citizens is requesting the PARCC data that has been withheld from the public until now. 

Does anyone believe that the public would have ever gotten to see the real results of the PARCC testing if the District Superintendents had not insisted on getting the raw scores and if our group of 32 citizens (which included key legislators and 4 BESE members) had not demanded the real PARCC data using a formal public records request?

Note: The LDOE staff, still intent on suppressing critical information, did not calculate the average percentage of correct answers or average percentage scores produced for each test, so I did it for them.


Mean Raw Score
Total Points Possible
State Average percent correct






Average all tests

Superintendent White said these scores would be "sobering". I would instead characterize these average raw scores as Shocking! My opinion is that these terrible scores are not the fault of the teachers or the students. I think they are the fault of poorly designed standards measured by an extremely poorly designed test.

Each year all teachers in Louisiana are required to set learning targets for each of their classes. These must be measurable results that the teacher will test at the end of the course. I would assume that any teacher who set a learning target of 38% average score on the final test would probably get fired on the spot for having the nerve to set such a ridiculously low average score as a learning target. No wait, we had better not do that because after the recent VAM impact on our teacher work force, we don't really have anyone to replace them with.

Would you give a passing grade to a student who scored 46.7% on the final 8th grade English test?

What about a student who scored 27.5% on the final 8th grade math test?

Yet John White is sure to look at the BESE members with a straight face next Tuesday and propose that BESE adopt somewhat similar scores as cut scores as the ones in the chart above for an achievement level of "Basic". 

But to add insult to injury, White will first convert all of these extremely low percentage scores on the state PARCC-like tests to the magical "scale scores". You see, by doing this, a score of 38.1% can magically become 725 points out of a possible 850 points. Now that doesn't look so bad anymore, now does it?

This confusing point system, assigning students scores running between 650 to 850 was concocted by the PARCC consortium, probably as a way of sugar coating the very bitter pill of the PARCC test results. Remember what I have told you before in this blog. Even if a student makes a flat zero, the PARCC consortium scheme gives him/her 650 points. That's just to keep the parents from grabbing pitchforks and surrounding the Claiborne building!

But for the first time ever, now parents will actually be able to see that when a student receives a  seemingly respectable score of 725 on the 8th grade math test, he/she may have gotten only 27.5% of the answers right. Or maybe White will pick a cut score higher than 27.5% (which was the average percent correct for the 25,000 plus students who took that math test). But that would mean that more than half would get a failing score. We have no idea what cut score White will recommend next Tuesday to BESE for the minimum raw score for the Basic level of performance. But White does not want BESE members lowering his idea of the high bar that he proposes to set for our students. He warned them not to try to lower standards in this article by his friend Will Sentell. “However, if they try to lower expectations, then I think it would say something very sad about the direction of our state,” he said.

You see, lowering the bar is really White's specialty. He has done it in secret in the last two years without informing or including the BESE members. Just take a few minutes to review the results of my public records requests described here, here, and here.

Now White will be quick to explain that his lowering of raw cut scores was not a lowering of standards but simply a legitimate adjustment because of more difficult test forms. Maybe this time after all the stalling and spinning the testing issue,  some citizens will begin to question his credibility.

 I guess in the past two years White did not want to bother BESE members with minor decisions like setting testing standards. But this time because of the amended law, they will be asked to be part of White's phony "rigor" and fake "high standards" and will be asked to help "raise the bar". . . . in the wrong direction.

BESE has been placed in a "no win" situation. This recent PARCC-like test is obviously just a lot of very expensive garbage. The Louisiana Legislature is sure to realize by the next session that the Common Core and its defective tests were wrong for our students and will probably act to trash it. Why torture our students and teachers one more year? Declare the test results null and void and for once just let our teachers teach. They know how to teach, and are just praying for one year of real teaching instead of prepping students for a test that has no credibility!