Saturday, September 19, 2015

Breaking News! The PARCC Cut Scores Have Been Set but Still No Results Released by LDOE

The PARCC cut scores for each level of performance have now been released by the PARCC consortium and other states are already starting the process of informing parents about how their children scored on the PARCC tests. The lowest passing score for Louisiana students is supposed to be level 3 performance which the PARCC consortium has decided will be represented by a score of 725 out of a possible 850 points.

Please click on this link to see how the Illinois Department of Education plans to inform each parent about the performance of his/her child on the new PARCC tests similar to the PARCC tests given in Louisiana this Spring.

For example, on the 5th grade math test the possible scale scores range from 650 to 850. In many cases these scale scores bear little relationship to the percentage of questions the student answered correctly. For example, suppose a student got frustrated or ill and did not answer any of the questions. He just gave his name or ID on his test form and could not answer any of the questions. My understanding is that this student would still get a score of 650. Suppose that another student answered 25 questions correctly out of 75 questions on the test. If the raw cut score for level 2 performance is 26 out of 75, then that student would be awarded a score between 650 and 700 and still be rated at level #1. That's the same as the student who answered none of the questions correctly. Does this make any sense to you?

This is just one example of how obscure and non-senseical the grading on these PARCC tests can be.
Most parents and teachers understand the concept of a raw score. The raw score for a particular child is the percentage of questions that the student got right. For example, a raw score of 33.3% on the test above means that the student got 25 out of 75 questions right.  But the only score the parent will see for the above test is the scale score a little below 700 out of a possible 850 points. To most people that looks like the student got over 80% of the test correct. To add to this confusion, the parent of the child who answered none of the questions correctly would seem to have almost as good a score. How are these parents going to know how much material their children really know? It seems to me that these manufactured scale scores will do much more to confuse and mislead parents and teachers than the old fashioned raw percentage scores would have done.

Yet John White has stated in this Advocate story that parents would somehow get a better understanding of their child's performance by knowing his/her scale score (and never knowing the raw score). He said: "It (the raw score) doesn't give a cogent analysis of how well a child did or how a group of kids did on the test." That's why he wants us to wait until November when the testing contractor will have calculated the scale scores. But wait a minute. We were told originally that our students scores would be compared at least to all the other PARCC states. So that would imply that all such states would be grading their students using the same criteria and the same scale. We are informed here that the PARCC consortium representing all PARCC states has basically completed its task of setting the all important cut scores for each level of achievement. Louisiana has been sent its results for the PARCC test. The official cut score for level 2 performance is 700. The official cut score for level 3 performance (which is the level Louisiana will be using initially for a passing score) is 725. Why must we wait for another level of score setting to occur? If you just plug in those cut scores it takes a computer about a millisecond to give us the percentage of our students scoring at each level. But White wants us to wait until November! Does this look a bit fishy to you?

Oh, and one other thing. Notice how in this most recent story White freely gives his opinion about how our students did on the PARCC. "Results will show that we have a long way to go." So he has obviously seen the results! Why is he the only one allowed to see the results until November? This is making a mockery of the concept of transparency. Not to mention the fact that we were told that these test results would be sooooo useful. But White wants to keep sitting on those important results. Remember what I said before about a chicken that sets on eggs too long.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Playing Political Games with PARCC Test Data

In this latest pro-John White article, Will Sentell of The Advocate never seems to question why it should take until November for the student scores on the Common Core PARCC test to be reported to the schools and the general public. The LDOE has the data but apparently is just sitting on it. Why?

Members of the Superintendent's Advisory Council on Thursday, asked why the results of the testing are being withheld when educators could be using them to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the first full year of Common Core instruction? In addition, there is a Curriculum Standards Review committee that is now struggling with how to modify the standards. Their deliberations could really use that test data. The data will not change between now and November, so why is it being withheld?

The full data on the results of the PARCC tests for Louisiana students has now been supplied to our LDOE by the PARCC consortium. The LDOE has in its computers exactly how many students answered each question on each test correctly. The LDOE could right now produce a detailed report on each PARCC test telling educators and the public exactly how many students got various percentages of the questions correct.

But White is claiming that knowledge of how many questions the students got right is not really helpful. Apparently the testing experts have to doctor the results in order for ordinary people to understand them. You know, like they did with the Geometry end-of-course test, where it was somehow determined that a score of 32% correct answers was passing. You see that's the trouble with standards. The people controlling the data can totally control the results and the standards by their setting of the raw passing scores. When they do their magic with setting the scale scores the testing experts are telling us: "Don't believe your lying eyes, about how well students did on the test, just believe what we tell you it all means." Educators are being treated like children who just don't really understand test results. What an insult to our professional educators!

Here is what Ann Burruss, a parent activist from Lafayette, had to say about the reason for the delay in reporting scores: "John White's delay in releasing scores -- when other states in the dwindling PARCC consortium have released results is political; plain and simple. "

BESE elections are scheduled for October 24. John White's supporters on BESE are up for reelection. These are the same BESE members who are strong supporters of Common Core and PARCC testing. Ugly results of the PARCC testing could hurt their reelection. So maybe those results should just be delayed until after the election. It's not about standards anymore. It's not about our school children anymore. It's just about politics!