Here is what we have learned so far partially by resorting to public records requests. Ohio had published their raw test results some time ago, revealing the actual percentage of correct answers that equated to the ratings of level 3 and level 4 on the PARCC test. In Louisiana, it took a public records request signed by 33 citizens including 5 legislators and 4 BESE members to extract the closely guarded conversion tables which convert the raw scores to the new scale scores. In the case of Colorado, I owe a special "thank you" to an education activist there who at my suggestion, submitted a public records request similar to what we did in Louisiana to get the raw results and conversion tables. It is notable that neither of the state departments of education in Ohio or Colorado objected to revealing the percentage of correct answers equating to the various levels of achievement on the PARCC test. In Louisiana, John White has resisted revealing the percentage correct cut scores and tried to claim that the percentage results were not meaningful and should be disregarded.
Louisiana was originally part of the PARCC consortium of 15 states that had contracted with the Pearson Education Services Company to give a test that was designed to measure the Common Core standards. The PARCC tests were supposed to allow everyone to compare the performance of students across state lines. But when Governor Jindal decided to oppose the Common Core standards the contract with Pearson for Louisiana was nullified and Superintendent John White and BESE chose to adopt a similar contract for testing the Common Core standards with Data Recognition Corp. which had administered LEAP tests for Louisiana in recent years. John White originally assurred BESE that the Louisiana test would be the same as the PARCC test. In a LENS NOLA article, White is quoted as claiming that the Louisiana test would have the same questions and same standards as other PARCC states.
In a quote to the LENS here, White stated the following:
Students across Louisiana “took the exact same form as did kids across the country,” White said. “Same questions. Same order. Nothing different.”
But the truth that has been revealed by comparing raw scores and conversion tables in Louisiana with Ohio and Corlorado is that the number of correct answers equating to each level of performance is quite different in Louisiana compared to the real PARCC states. But even more importantly, the mix of questions on the Louisiana PARCC-like tests are apparently significantly easier compared to the real PARCC states. This means that the reported achievement level performance of Louisiana students is significantly inflated compared to the NAEP tests and to other PARCC states.
In an email to district superintendents in October 2015 White said the following:
"Attached please find charts for converting raw scores to scale scores for 2015 grade 3-8 English and math state assessments.
John White has repeatedly claimed that the new PARCC-like test will be compatible to the NAEP, which now is seen as the gold standard for comparing student performance from state to state. But an analysis of the most recent PARCC-like test results show that there are huge differences in comparison to NAEP. Those distortions really get obvious when we compare the Louisiana PARCC-like results with the real PARCC states of Ohio and Colorado.
Ohio, like Louisiana, uses level 3 performance as proficient while Colorado uses the PARCC consortium recommended level 4 as their standard for proficient. So to compare apples to apples we will ignore these arbitrary decisions on proficient and simply compare level 3 performance for each of the three states and compare also "basic" performance on NAEP which has been equated to level 3 on PARCC. So here are the key comparisons: (The + used here means performance above the Basic or level 3 standard) (ELA stands for English language arts)
- Grade 4 NAEP Reading: LA- 63% Basic or + CO- 71% Basic or + OH- 72% Basic or +
- Grade 4 PARCC ELA: LA- 74% level 3 or + CO- 70% level 3 or + OH- 69% level 3 or +
- Grade 8 NAEP Reading: LA- 66% Basic or + CO- 78% Basic or + OH- 76% Basic or +
- Grade 8 PARCC ELA LA- 70% level 3 or + CO- 66% level 3 or + OH- 68% level 3 or +
- Grade 4 NAEP math: LA- 78% Basic or + CO- 82% Basic or + OH- 85% Basic or +
- Grade 4 PARCC math:LA- 67% level 3 or + CO- 60% level 3 or + OH- 64% level 3 or +
- Grade 8 NAEP math: LA- 57% Basic or + CO- 73% Basic or + OH- 75% Basic or +
- Grade 8 PARCC math: LA- 55% level 3 or + CO- 44% level 3 or + OH- 51% level 3 or +
Maybe there are other PARCC states that gave the same PARCC test form as Louisiana and used the same raw score to scale score conversion tables as were used here, but that would greatly distort and inflate their results also. This would be highly unlikely in my opinion and would surely be challenged by testing experts.
I leave it to my readers to speculate why the Louisiana Department of Education and its testing company would choose to inflate the apparent performance of Louisiana students, but by approving baseline data that is skewed and inflated, Louisiana will be assured the loss of national credibility in its student testing. That's why the Louisiana Accountability Commission deserves an explanation of the math and ELA results for the Spring 2015 testing.
It would also be helpful to have an impartial evaluation of the Louisiana PARCC-like tests by independent testing experts that are not connected or beholding to the Louisiana Department of Education or to the current regime of reformists now dictating education policy in Louisiana. If the 2015 Spring tests are allowed to stand as a baseline for measuring our future student performance, there will continue to be great disparities with other more objective testing systems.