NAEP Scores Down Since Common Core Implementation

TheNationsReportCardThe NAEP scores for 2015 in math and reading were just released and scores are down from 2013.

In 2015 the average score for 4th graders was 240 points (on a 0-500 point scale).  This is one point lower than 2013. The average score for 8th graders was 282 which is two points below the average score of 8th graders in 2013.

This is higher than where students were at in 1990, but frankly Common Core advocates can’t take credit for that as scores improved before the standards were fully implemented.

No student group saw an improvement in math scores, and only 40% of 4th graders are deemed “proficient” along with 33% of 8th graders.

Reading isn’t much better.

Students in 4th grade had an average score of 223 points which is about the same as 2013.  8th graders dropped a couple of points since 2013 with an average score of 265.  Only 36% of 4th graders were found to be proficient and only 34% of 8th graders were found to be proficient.

That switch to focusing on informational text is doing a bang-up job.

At the state level it should be noted that Massachusetts is no longer number one with NAEP 8th grade reading.  This state had the best ELA standards pre-Common Core.  Oops.

Read through the reports for yourself and see how your state did.

Study: MCAS Less Expensive, More Rigorous and Provides Better Information than PARCC

massachusetts-state-flagIn the wake of an apparent shift by Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester making it increasingly likely that Massachusetts will update MCAS rather than adopt English and math assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a new study published by Pioneer Institute concludes that revising and updating MCAS would result in lower costs and more rigorous assessments that would provide better information about student performance.

“The research leads us to support keeping MCAS and making it an even better test,” said Jim Stergios, Pioneer’s executive director. “We are all for an MCAS 2.0, but that means pre-2011 MCAS should be the starting point for new assessments and test items, not PARCC.”

“How PARCC’s False Rigor Stunts the Academic Growth of all Students” compares PARCC, which is based on Common Core’s K-12 English and math standards, to pre-Common Core MCAS reading and writing tests. Among its many findings, the study demonstrates that PARCC fails to meet the accountability provisions set forth in the state’s Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Education in order to qualify for Race to the Top funding in 2010.

The pre-Common Core MCAS tests were chosen in part because MCAS is now based on Common Core standards, not the state’s pre-2011 standards. Pre-Common Core MCAS tests were also chosen because of the dumbing down of 10th grade MCAS tests. For years, MCAS results mirrored state performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In 2013, that remained true for 4th and 8th grade MCAS tests. But that year, while 80 percent of students scored “advanced” or “proficient” on MCAS 10th grade math and 91 percent on the English test, the numbers were just 34 percent in math and 43 percent in English on the corresponding high school NAEP tests.

What was at the very least a failure by the state to maintain the academic rigor of 10th grade MCAS tests is one reason why the authors recommend that MCAS 2.0 be developed by an entity independent of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

When Chester, who also chairs PARCC’s governing board, announced his apparent shift, he cited the importance of maintaining state control over student assessments. Pioneer Institute has argued against tying the Commonwealth to the faltering PARCC consortium, which once boasted 26 member states but today includes just seven or eight largely low performers. With the number of potential test-takers in these states falling from 30 million to under five million, PARCC’s viability and ability to maintain its current pricing are in question.

The inability of students in states like New Mexico to pass tests at the level of their Massachusetts counterparts would, over time, create pressure to reduce the tests’ rigor.

The authors also dispute claims that PARCC could simultaneously determine whether students are academically eligible for a high school diploma and ensure college readiness. High school is radically different than college, and the academic demands of various post-secondary programs vary dramatically. Our international competitors use different tests for high school graduation and entrance to post-secondary education.

Despite claims that PARCC would do a better job ensuring that students are “college- and career-ready,” a recent study found that PARCC assessments were no better at predicting college readiness than MCAS – even though grade 10 MCAS tests have been dumbed down.

PARCC would also force schools to devote many more hours to testing, leaving less time for classroom instruction. By the time he or she graduated from high school, the average student would spend almost three times as many hours taking PARCC tests than they would MCAS assessments.


Supporters also claim PARCC does a better job of testing “higher-order thinking.” In fact, its new types of test items are not research-based and not very good. They are often difficult to navigate and what passes for testing higher-order thinking are simply multi-step problems.

At the root of PARCC’s weaknesses are the Common Core standards to which they are tied. The authors call on the Commonwealth to phase out Common Core and PARCC, and to base a revised MCAS on Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core curriculum frameworks, updated by pertinent new research.

“How PARCC’s False Rigor Stunts the Academic Growth of all Students” was written by Mark McQuillan, Richard P. Phelps and Sandra Stotsky. McQuillan is former dean of the School of Education at Southern New Hampshire University and commissioner of education for the state of Connecticut. Prior to that, he was a deputy commissioner of education and a school superintendent in Massachusetts.

Richard P. Phelps is the author of four books on testing and founder of the Nonpartisan Education Review (

Sandra Stotsky is professor emerita at the University of Arkansas where she held the 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality. Previously she was senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and a member of the Common Core Validation Committee.

You can read the study below.

Star-Ledger Says NJ Parents Who Opted-Out of PARCC are “Sabotaging the Data”


And that raises a core question for opponents of this test, and all those who boycotted it: Would New Jersey somehow be better off not knowing these facts? To ask that question is to answer it. The notion is absurd.

The PARCC test, unlike earlier standardized tests, is designed to help teachers and principals identify exactly where kids are learning, and where they are struggling. That can help educators tailor their lessons to be more effective.

It also allows states to compare their performance to other states, with an apples to apples measure. Under the current system, each state offers its own tests. That allows them to claim success when their only real accomplishment is to lower the bar to artificially boost scrores. That’s known as the “honesty gap” which many educators, and leaders like former Gov. Tom Kean, have decried.

Perhaps most important, these tests could be an important tool in the fight to close the achievement gap between black and white students, which stubbornly persists in New Jersey — not just between cities and suburbs, but within racially mixed, suburban towns like Montclair. How can we fix that problem if we can’t measure it?

Those who boycotted this test undermined those efforts. Yes, the resistance to testing is understandable, and many educators agree that the load has grown too large. But creative districts are finding ways to cope with that, like eliminating some of their own tests in favor of the PARCC exams, which offers this more authoritative evaluation.

And remember: Those who boycott the tests are affecting more than their own children. They are sabotaging the data for all children in New Jersey.

First it’s debatable whether the data will produce any meaningful results.  Wasn’t this what we were told when No Child Left Behind passed?  Did we see any significant changes in the quality of public K-12 education?  Second, if opting out “sabotages” the data – by all means keep it up!

The Star-Ledger editorial board obviously cares more about data mining than they do parental rights.

Arizona Board of Education Rejects Common Core

arizona-state-flagMonday morning the Arizona Board of Education voted 6 to 2 to reject the Common Core State Standards.  The state will, for now, leave the the math and ELA standards in place, but the state will develop their own standards.

ABC 15 reports:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas was at the meeting and motioned for the vote. Eliminating Common Core is part of her education plan she unveiled earlier this month.

Board members discussed the issue for about 45 minutes before voting.

“The board is just saying, ‘We can take care of Arizona’s children and this is a very proud day for Arizonans,” said Douglas.

“This will send a clear message to the citizens of Arizona and the nation that Arizonans are smart enough, engaged enough, and collaborative enough to control the education of our own children.”

We’ll have to watch the process that takes shape as the board meets to determine the route they will go.  My hope is that they solicit parental, educator and legislative feedback in an open and (real) transparent process.


Obama Wants to Limit Standardized Testing

President Obama seems to be doing an about face on standardized testing. Over the weekend the White House posted the following video on Facebook.

“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble. So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing, that the principles I just outlined are reflected in classrooms throughout the country—to make sure that our kids are enjoying learning, that our teachers are able to operate with creativity, to make sure we are preparing our kids for a lifetime of success,” he said.

USA Today reports that he is encouraging schools to limit testing to 2% of classroom time.

President Obama says students are spending too much time in the classroom taking tests, many of them unnecessary, and urged officials in the country’s schools to take steps to administer fewer and more meaningful exams.

The White House said Saturday the proliferation of testing in the United States — a problem the administration acknowledged it has played a role in — has taken away too much valuable time that could be better spent on learning, teaching and fostering creativity in schools. To curb excessive testing, Obama recommended limiting standardized exams to no more than 2% of a student’s instructional time in the classroom.

While I agree that standardized testing should take much less time in the classroom (I’d prefer none as I see it as a colossal waste of time) the White House obviously hasn’t learned it’s lesson.

It should totally stay out of the discussion.  This is a discussion that needs to happen at the state and local levels. I haven’t been able to find the 10 page plan yet, but I know how the Obama administration has operated thus far I’d suspect that it is a plan that doesn’t respect federalism much less the Constitution.

Idaho State BOE Approves Two Assessment Waivers

idaho-state-flagThe Idaho State Board of Education voted on Wednesday to waive two requirements regarding the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The first waiver removes the requirement that the high school class of 2018 score proficient or advanced on the ISAT to be eligible for high school graduation. The second waiver removes the requirement that the ISAT be administered to 9th grade students during the 2015-16 school year, making it optional for school districts to administer the test.

The current Idaho Standards Achievement Test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Currently, Idaho high school students must score proficient or advanced on the 10th grade version of the ISAT. The class of 2018 is scheduled to take the test this spring as 10th graders. Students scoring below proficient can re-take the test or complete alternate requirements to prove they have mastered Idaho’s math and English standards for high school graduates.

This is different than in most states where students will just take the assessment in grades 3-8 and then again in 11th grade.

The move came after Idaho students performed poorly on the assessment during the 2014-2015 school year and public opinion began to tank.

The Board voted to waive the proficiency requirement for high school graduation they say because of the relative newness. Students will still need to take the 10th grade ISAT test for Idaho to comply with No Child Left Behind. The high school graduating class of 2018 is the second consecutive class to have the ISAT proficiency score waived as a graduation requirement during the implementation of the new assessment.

Apparently the State Board of Education saw disaster looming ahead if they didn’t offer these waivers.

Louisiana Standards Compromise Not Kept

louisiana-state-flag-2The members of the Louisiana House of Representatives who negotiated new education standards now say that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are not agreeing to a spirit of compromise.  Color me not shocked that educrats are not acting in good faith. I do appreciate the legislators calling attention to it.

From a news release sent last week:

The group of House members who negotiated the agreement on developing new standards in the 2015 legislative session, (Geymann, Schroder, Pope, Harris, Henry, Havard and Hensgens), have declared that the spirit of the compromise has not been kept by BESE or the Department of Education.  While negotiating the agreement, Superintendent John White made the point that the review committee should have access to anything they need to make their decisions.  The legislators who have concerns with the existing standards worked in good faith on this agreement with other legislators and stakeholders.  The intent was to identify the areas of concern and make appropriate adjustments to improve the standards and remove the controversy while making them Louisiana’s own.  This week the BESE members voted 7 – 4 not to give the standards review committee the data necessary to judge the validity and appropriateness of the existing standards. 

Without the appropriate data, the review committee cannot perform their job and have no way of judging the validity of the standards.  It is now the opinion of these House members that the majority of the current BESE board and department of education are not willing to allow this panel to achieve the intent of the legislative agreement to remove Louisiana from the existing standards and develop the state’s own high standards that have been improved by making adjustments in the areas of concern.

There is no reason to participate with a committee whose outcome has been predetermined by the lack of data and resources from the Department of Education. The House members also call for the four major candidates for governor to bring forth in their legislative package, legislation that will remove our state from the existing standards and create strong and appropriate Louisiana standards. 

They then listed some additional concerns about the review process given to them by some of the review panelists. Which you can read below:

Drilling through the Core

white Book cover isolated on plain background

The Pioneer Institute this fall released a new book entitled Drilling through the Core: Why Common Core is Bad for America. It was edited by Peter W. Wood who also writes an introduction, and includes contributions by some of the country’s top education scholars, includingSandra Stotsky, R. James Milgram, Williamson Evers, Ze’ev Wurman, and more.

They describe the book this way:

Drilling through the Core analyzes Common Core from the standpoint of its deleterious effects on curriculum-language arts, mathematics, history, and more-as well as its questionable legality, its roots in the aggressive spending of a few wealthy donors, its often-underestimated costs, and the untold damage it will wreak on American higher education.

At a time when more and more people are questioning the wisdom of federally-mandated one-size-fits-all solutions, Drilling through the Core offers well-considered arguments for stopping Common Core in its tracks.

CSPAN recently covered Drill through the Core on Book TV you can watch the discussion here.  Watch the discussion and be sure to buy this excellent resource.

New Mexico Student Scores Tank Under PARCC

new-mexico-state-flagThere is one word for the New Mexico’s PARCC scores. Dismal.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:

Thousands of New Mexico students will have to retake one of the most divisive standardized tests in order to meet the state’s new scholastic standards, according to performance data released Friday.

Hanna Skandera, the Cabinet secretary for the state Public Education Department, released the first round of PARCC, or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, data on Friday. More than 3 out of 4 failed the math portion of the test and about half will have to retake it. And about 1 in 4 high school juniors failed to demonstrate they can read and write competently in English and will have to retake the test.

The numbers are starker in Santa Fe. About 65 percent of students failed the Algebra II portion of the test, a math requirement for graduation. At Santa Fe High, 44 percent of students scored in the lowest tier for Algebra II. At Capital, 40 percent scored in the lowest tier of the test, and another 40 percent of students finished in the second-to-last tier.

Since September, Skandera has warned educators, parents and students to lower their expectations for the first round of PARCC scores.

“Our students didn’t get worse,” Skandera said. “Our teachers didn’t get worse. What we know is that we did the right thing. We should be applauding the state’s decision to raise standards.”

Oh yes, of course they “raised the standards.”  No, it couldn’t be that the standards themselves are bad and the assessment isn’t valid.  Generally when you see that many students fail the problem isn’t with the students, but the test.

Study Shows PARCC Does Not Gauge Readiness Better Than MCAS

massachusetts-state-flagPARCC has been plugged as being able to gauge readiness better than Massachusetts current assessment – MCAS.  A study released on Tuesday last week, which is the first analysis of PARCC’s ability compared with MCAS, shows otherwise.

The Boston Globe reports:

A test promoted as a more effective tool than the MCAS at measuring students’ college readiness is no better at predicting performance than the longstanding assessment, according to a new study commissioned by the state.

The results of the study are sure to fuel debate as the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education votes next month on whether to dump the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and replace it with the PARCC — or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.

Such a change would mean a daunting adjustment for many of the state’s public schools and nearly 1 million students, as they shift to a test designed to be taken on a computer, rather than paper and pencil. The new test would eventually replace the MCAS as a graduation requirement…

….Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said the study’s finding that both tests fared about as well at predicting performance as the SAT, commonly used as a factor in college acceptance, showed that all three are flawed.

“If the MCAS and the PARCC aren’t any better than SAT, then relying on the tests for college prediction puts Massachusetts really in a weak position,” Neill said.

FairTest, a Boston-based advocacy group, supports placing a moratorium on the use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement and developing a different and more comprehensive assessment system.