New Mexico to Stop Using PARCC

Newly minted New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered the state’s department of education to stop using PARCC.

KOB Channel 4 reports:

Lujan Grisham, in an executive order, called on the department to immediately begin working with key stakeholders to identify and implement a more effective, more appropriate and less intrusive method for assessing school performance that is compliant with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The development of this alternative approach, intended to deliver a sounder methodology for the rating and assessments of New Mexico schools, will include teachers, administrators, parents, students and recognized professionals and experts in the field of student assessments.

“This is the first of many steps we will take to transform education in this state,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “High-stakes tests like PARCC do our schools a disservice, and we are about empowering our school system. Including those who will be most empowered by a better assessment in the process will help us build something better from the ground up, as opposed to a test mandated from on high.”

In a second executive order, Lujan Grisham called for an end to using PARCC in teacher evaluations. Reaching out to stakeholders in a similar fashion, the department will, under the order, strive to achieve balance in its ratings and assessments by incorporating into its analysis a variety of proven means of measuring teacher efficacy and performance. 

Since New Mexico’s math and ELA standards are Common Core any new test will still be aligned to the standards as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

New Mexico’s upcoming departure coupled with New Jersey’s and Maryland’s upcoming exit will drop the Common Core assessment consortium that once boasted 27 partners (including 24 states) down to four.

PARCC’s active partners include the District of Columbia, Illinois (grades 3-8 only), Louisiana (hybrid, grades 3-8 only), New Jersey (plans to withdraw), Maryland (plans to withdraw), Massachusetts (hybrid, grades 3-8 only), New Mexico, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Court Overturns New Jersey’s PARCC Graduation Requirement

A state appellate court ruled unanimously on Monday against the New Jersey Department of Education’s requirement that students pass two assessments before they graduate.

Unfortunately, it is due to the number of tests required, not the requirement itself. The Associated Press reports:

The unanimous decision was made public Monday but won’t take effect for 30 days. It invalidates the state Department of Education’s requirement that students must pass standardized exams —commonly known as the PARCC tests — in Algebra I and English.

The three-judge panel found the requirement — which was approved in 2016 and was due to take effect with the class of 2020 — doesn’t match a state law that requires students to pass just a single test in 11th grade in order to graduate.

“We do not intend to micromanage the administration of the proficiency examination mandated by the (law),” the judges wrote in their 21-page opinion. The 30-day delay for the ruling to take effect gives the state time to appeal to the state Supreme Court if it wants and avoids disrupting any ongoing statewide administration of proficiency examinations.

I would not be surprised if the state argues that PARCC is, in reality, one test, and the Algebra I and English tests, are just sections in that one assessment.

So, I would not get excited that the graduation requirement is gone for good. The PARCC graduation requirement in New Jersey has been an impediment to the opt-out movement in the state. Parents should be able to determine whether their student takes a standardized assessment like this, not the state.

It’s unfortunate the court did not recognize that.

Maryland Plans to Dump PARCC

Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD)

Maryland plans to replace PARCC with an assessment of their own The Baltimore Sun reports. Maryland’s upcoming departure coupled with New Jersey’s exit will drop the Common Core assessment consortium that once boasted 27 partners (including 24 states) down to five.

PARCC’s active partners include the District of Columbia, Illinois (grades 3-8 only), Louisiana (hybrid, grades 3-8 only), New Jersey (plans to withdraw), Maryland, Massachusetts (hybrid, grades 3-8 only), New Mexico, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Maryland’s schools struggled with PARCC since its implementation. Less than one-half of the state’s students passed in 2017. The Maryland State Board of Education announced last fall they were delaying the requirement that students pass PARCC to graduate.

Liz Bowie for The Baltimore Sun wrote:

The state is seeking bids from contractors to design a new assessment that requires less time to take and grade, but it will not be ready for use until the 2019-2020 school year. So the state will spend another $11 million to continue testing with PARCC this spring.

The impetus for change came from Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon and Gov. Larry Hogan, who said he got many complaints.

“Nearly everyone in Maryland — parents, teachers, students and the governor want these tests to end,” Hogan said at a Board of Public Works meeting last month.

As I’ve written before when a state has decided to jettison PARCC or Smarter Balanced, as long as a state continues to use Common Core math and ELA standards they will have a Common Core-aligned assessment. The Every Student Succeeds Act mandates the alignment of a state’s standards and assessment.

New Jersey Announces First Steps Away From PARCC

The New Jersey Department of Education announced the first steps to transition away from using PARCC as the state’s annual assessment required under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Governor Phil Murphey (D-NJ) said in January that it was time for the state to get rid of PARCC.

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) held a two-month, 21-county tour to collect recommendations from a reported 2,300 students, teachers, school administrators, education advocates, and community leaders.


“Because of a focused, concentrated effort to reach out to New Jersey residents and to give them a voice at the table, we are on a clear path away from PARCC,” Murphy said in a released statement. “By making the transition in phases, we can ensure a smooth implementation in schools across the state and maintain compliance with current state and federal requirements.”

“A stronger, fairer New Jersey means one that prioritizes outreach and collaboration when making policy decisions,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet in a statement for the NJDOE press release. “My staff and I went on a listening tour across the state to ensure that we understood the scope of interest, and we moved forward having considered the needs of students, educators, and broader community members in building the next generation assessment system by New Jersey, for New Jersey.”

NJDOE says the transition will occur over multiple stages, and PARCC will not be fully replaced until the 2020-2021 school year.

NJDOE, upon New Jersey State Board approval, plans to reduce the number of required tests for graduation from high school from six to two. They also plan to provide flexibility for first-year English learners on the English language proficiency test. They also plan to ensure that educators and parents receive test data in a timely manner. Currently, that data is not provided until after the school year ends.

They also plan to immediately reduce the length of testing for all grades by 25 percent and reduce the weight of the assessment on teacher evaluations.

Parental opt-outs were not addressed.

You can read the report and draft regulations. NJDOE says they will start the second phase of assessment outreach this summer that will continue through the 2018-2019 school year that will focus on the “more complicated questions and issues” addressed during their tour.

New Mexico House Candidate Promotes Parental Opt-Out of PARCC

Dr. Lisa Shin

I read an op/ed by a state legislative candidate that I found refreshing. Lisa Shin who is running for the New Mexico House of Representatives in House District 43 said that parents should have a say whether their child takes PARCC. Shin is running unopposed in the Republican Primary that is being held today in an open seat that was previously held by State Representative Stephanie Richard, a Democrat who is running for public lands commissioner.

She writes:

PARCC testing has not improved the educational system for New Mexico as a whole. One thing for certain, the PARCC rebellion reflects the need for local control over education. Each community has vastly different needs and priorities. A responsive, accountable, and accessible school board and superintendent seeks input from teachers, parents, and students, to determine the best ways to assess and improve academic proficiency. What works in Los Alamos, doesn’t work in Cuba or Silver City.

Sen. Morales decries huge corporations that profit millions from PARCC, but it is the bad fruit from the tree of corruption and cronyism. Common Core is “infested with essentially the same set of people rewarding each other with taxpayer dollars and huge private grants, decades before there can be any proof that all this money laundering produced a genuine public good. Common Core is a giant experiment, remember.” When in doubt, follow the money.

In the end, parents have the final say, and should exercise their right to opt-out, if they so choose. Districts that tell parents they cannot do so, in Sen. Morales’ words, violate “a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children and it is unacceptable. Our children must not be used as leverage in a misguided national trend of high-stakes testing in public education.”

I am happy to see a candidate write about this. She is a rare candidate to do so.

Wild Common Core Spin Over Federal Report

Photo credit: carrotmadman6 (CC-By-2.0)

I have to applaud the spin over a federal report I just saw. A headline over at The 74 Million states: “Driven by Common Core Rigor, States Are Raising Proficiency Bar for Reading and Math, New Report Finds.”

Since news over Common Core has been bad, and NAEP scores have demonstrated that it has done nothing to raise student achievement I can understand why Common Core advocates want to grasp at anything resembling good news.

Kate Stringer wrote:

That’s according to a comparison of state proficiency standards released today by the National Center for Education Statistics that looks at 2015 data. But more states than ever, including Louisiana, are raising their standards closer to the proficiency bar set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress — commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card.

Over the past 15 years, NCES has been tracking how each state defines proficiency and comparing that to NAEP’s benchmark. NAEP is the only common national test taken by students in every state, and it is generally considered to have rigorous standards for defining proficiency (although some have argued that the standards are too high).

The reason for this move toward higher academic standards for reading and math comes from a national push over the past decade for common, rigorous standards, like the Common Core, Peggy Carr, associate commissioner for NCES, said during a call Wednesday with reporters.

States kept proficiency standards low because it made it seem like more students are proficient. Richard Phelps with Nonpartisan Education Review pointed out yesterday on Twitter why this really isn’t something to celebrate:

“Cut scores are set subjectively or, in the worst cases, arbitrarily. They do not necessarily have anything to do with test quality, rigor, or alignment. Moreover, tests can be more difficult precisely because they are of lower quality, e.g., poorly written, convoluted,” he tweeted.

Just because PARCC and Smarter Balanced raised their proficiency standards does not mean they are good assessments. There are serious validation concerns with both assessments.

All that raising proficiency standards has done is to demonstrate how much states were trying to pull the wool over parents’ and taxpayers’ eyes.

Only 37% of Illinois Students Passed PARCC’s Reading and Writing Assessment

Fox Illinois reported earlier this month that only 37 percent of 3rd-8th graders in Illinois passed the PARCC’s reading and writing assessment.

Nearly two-thirds of Illinois students in 3rd through 8th grade are not up to standard for reading and writing, according to the state administered PARCC test and some parents said it would be best to go back to the basics.

“Every student is different and my opinion is if you really want to show a difference in any kind of testing at all, turn the classroom back over to the teachers, let the teachers teach, get the testing out,” Mike Foster, parent of an Illinois student said.

But not all agree that the testing should be what the standard is based upon for students to be considered.

“Minimize the standardized testing. It’s ok to have certain guidelines and make sure they’re adhering to certain minimal guidelines. But overall just let the teachers teach,” Foster said. Administrators said they are working hard to make sure their students don’t run into similar problems so every student can be ready for their future.

Predictably, the Illinois State Board of Education blamed the result on the test’s difficulty.

Read the whole article here.

Common Core is taking these students in the wrong direction. This story from Illinois brought to mind two articles that we’ve highlighted at Truth in American Education, both are from 2016, but nothing significant has happened since with the ELA standards to diminish their relevancy.

The first article was written by Jay Matthews who warned about the direction of writing instruction under Common Core in The Washington Post.

The Education Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for students from low-income households, has been peeking recently at what is happening inside classrooms, an intrusion rarely done because it is expensive and tends to expose unattractive realities.

The organization collected 1,876 school assignments from six middle schools in two large urban districts in two states. The idea was to see how well English, humanities, social studies and science were being taught in the new era of the Common Core State Standards. The results are distressing and show that the instruction students are getting — particularly in writing — is deeply inadequate.

“Only four percent of all assignments reviewed pushed student thinking to higher levels,” one report said. “About 85 percent of assignments asked students to either recall information or apply basic skills and concepts as opposed to prompting for inferences or structural analysis, or doing author critiques. Many assignments show an attempt at rigor, but these are largely surface level.”

“Relevance and choice — powerful levers to engage early adolescents — are mostly missing in action,” it said. “Only two percent of assignments meet both indicators of engagement.”

Here are even more depressing numbers: 18 percent of the assignments required no writing at all. Sixty percent demanded just some note-taking, short responses or a sentence or two. Fourteen percent required students to write a single paragraph — whoopee. Only 9 percent went beyond that.

The second article was written by D’Lee Pollock-Moore, an English teacher and department chair at Warren County High School in Warrenton, Georgia,  writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Get Schooled Blog she critiqued the Common Core ELA Standards. She said the reading standards neglect to teach the basics.

The Common Core fails to teach students the basics from kindergarten through 12th grade. Foundational reading skills end in fifth grade, yet middle and high school teachers still teach foundational skills like fluency and syllabication. This lack of foundational standards in the upper grades creates an achievement gap that can never be closed.

She also addressed how Common Core addresses writing:

Not only are we missing the basics in the lower grades, but we’re also missing the foundations in middle and high school.  Students need to be taught how to write an email, how to create a blog or website, and even how to write a professional letter and resume (and not every child takes a business class to learn these skills).  Does Common Core acknowledge these necessary and fundamental skills? No. You will not find any technical writing standards in the 6-12 Common Core Curriculum. This is why we still have to teach 12th graders how to write a thank you note or how to sign their name for a legal document (don’t even get me started on the cursive writing debate — there is no cursive writing standard in Common Core).  Students used to learn key job skills in English class, but now only college-readiness standards are important. What about the future welder who needs to learn how to read a welding manual?  Are his needs not as important as the future lawyer?

Is it any wonder Illinois students (and students across the nation) are struggling?

New Jersey Seeks Input for New Assessment

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has said that it is time for the Garden State to get rid of PARCC. To that end, the New Jersey Department of Education announced last week they will solicit public input in May to “inform” the next statewide assessment.

“We will be visiting communities throughout the state so we can hear recommendations from parents, students, teachers, school administrators, and other key stakeholders,” New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet said. “We invite New Jerseyans to share their insights in-person and online, so we may establish priorities for change moving forward.”

The department said stakeholder input will play an integral role in the NJDOE’s short- and long-term plans for, and improvements to, the statewide assessment program. The NJDOE is particularly interested in perspectives on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is the current statewide assessment for math and English language arts/literacy. Specifically, they said public input is needed to determine what elements of the statewide assessment program work well, and what areas need improvement.

They announced that the Department has a process of securing contractual partners that are able to meet the design needs informed by the stakeholder feedback gathered over the coming months.

They also said the new assessment has to conform to legal requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act. “Federal law requires all states to assess students in grades 3 through 8, and again in high school. As our assessment system continues to evolve and improve, we must adhere to these laws, implement change in an innovative, deliberative and cost-effective way, and build on the high standards we have for all New Jersey students,” Repollet said.

Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on New Jersey’s assessments through multiple options, including:

  • Submit interest by May 8 to join a Statewide Assessment Collaborative by following this link.
  • Watch an online recorded webinar and complete a feedback questionnaire (details will be forthcoming on the NJDOE Assessments webpage).
  • Contact with comments or questions regarding the statewide assessment program. Specific recommendations to enhance the current program or support for elements of the current program are encouraged.

In addition, the Department announced they will partner with schools and other stakeholder organizations to take part in roundtable discussions and will also reach out to statewide education associations representing school superintendents, principals, teachers, school board members, and parents.

The Department said that feedback and recommendations generated by the first phase of outreach will be collected through June. They also asserted that all input will be considered as they plan for the future of statewide assessments in New Jersey and make initial enhancements to the statewide assessment program in the 2018-19 school year.

“New Jersey’s statewide assessments have been a constantly evolving process ever since they were first instituted in the 1970s,” Repollet added. “With that in mind, we will continue to receive feedback and recommendations, and expect to be able to make additional improvements in coming years.”

A couple of things to note with this announcement last week. First, since the assessment has to be aligned with the state’s academic standards the assessment will still be Common Core-aligned. Second, it appears that the state will at first tweak PARCC so I’m not sure there will be much of a change. Also, they could do what Massachusetts has done and offer some sort of PARCC-hybrid assessment.

I’m not optimistic that the assessment landscape in New Jersey will be significantly changed.

Co-Author of 1993 MA Ed Reform Act Concerned About Current Policies

Former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham
Photo Credit: Rappaport Center (CC-By-2.0)

Massachusetts Education Reform Act co-author and Former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham, who now serves as a distinguished senior fellow in education at the Pioneer Institute, spoke at an event at the Massachusetts State House marking the education reform act’s 25th Anniversary.

Birmingham praised the historic success that has been achieved since the law was enacted in 1993:

If you had told me then that more than 90 percent of our students would pass MCAS and that we would have 13 consecutive years of improvement on SAT scores, or that our students would rank first in the nation in every category and in every grade tested on NAEP between 2005 and 2013, and that they would place at or near the top on gold-standard international math and science tests like the TIMSS, I would have thought you were unrealistically optimistic. We all had ambitious hopes for education reform on that day 25 years ago, but I doubt any of us would have dared to predict the historic successes we have actually enjoyed under the Act.

He shared what K-12 education in Massachusetts was like before the bill:

Before 1993, we witnessed the grossest disparities in spending on our public schools. In some districts we were spending more than $10,000 per child per annum and in others we were spending $3,000. In those circumstances to pretend that we were affording our children anything remotely approaching equal educational opportunity was nothing short of fraudulent.

And the academic quality of education was materially different in virtually every school district across the Commonwealth. Partly as a result of those disparities in spending, the state did precious little to insist on uniform standards. Pre-1993 there were but two state-imposed requirements to get a high school diploma: one year of American history and four years of gym. Clearly a testament more to the lobbying prowess of gym teachers than to any coherent pedagogical vision.

But the Education Reform Act strove to change all this; to change the state funding mechanism and the academic expectations for all our students. I believe we have largely succeeded.

Addressing Massachusetts current standards and tests he said:

With regard to standards and tests, we have jettisoned our tried and true reliance on higher-quality academic standards and MCAS and replaced them with inferior Common Core standards and PARCC testing. It’s worth noting that the PARCC consortia has now lost over two-thirds of its member states; hardly a ringing endorsement. I fear the implementation of Common Core and MCAS 2.0, which is a rebranded version of PARCC, has contributed to Massachusetts being a negative growth state on NAEP reading and math between 2011 and 2015.

Why Massachusetts would settle for having the same English, math, or science standards and rebranded PARCC tests as do Arkansas or Louisiana, whose students could not possible meet Massachusetts performance levels, is puzzling to me. The Common Core and its PARCC-style testing regime represent one of those rare instances where what may be good for the nation as a whole is bad for Massachusetts.

Read his full remarks here.

HT: Pioneer Institute

Illinois To “Transform” Assessment

Add Illinois to the list of states that have either ditched PARCC entirely or plan to use some hybrid of it.

The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the Illinois State Board of Education plans to modify the PARCC assessment for 3rd-8th graders on the heels of a recent standoff with Chicago Public Schools over the assessment, as well as, complaints from numerous school districts.

The Illinois State Board of Education plans to transform third- to eighth-grade state exams, the Tribune has learned, with a goal of shortening the tests, getting results more quickly and switching to a format that adjusts the difficulty of test questions as kids provide right or wrong answers.

“PARCC as we know it — it is obviously going to need to evolve,” said A. Rae Clementz, ISBE’s director of assessment and accountability.

PARCC, the acronym for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, had problems from the onset. School officials criticized the long hours of PARCC testing, and complaints from parents mushroomed into an opt-out movement that kept kids from getting tested. In 2015, Chicago Public Schools resisted PARCC testing and got into a standoff with the state, which threatened to yank hundreds of millions of dollars of funds from CPS. The district ultimately relented.

The state made changes to reduce time on testing and pulled PARCC from the roster of high school assessments following complaints from administrators who said the exams took away from instruction. Any PARCC changes will not affect high schools.

Meanwhile, scores on the third- to eighth-grade PARCC exams generally remained low statewide, with fewer than 40 percent of some 900,000 test-takers able to pass the reading and math exams in 2017.

PARCC’s membership has dwindled over the years to the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. When New Jersey officially leaves PARCC only five states and the District of Columbia will remain in a consortium that once boasted 25 states and DC. Illinois has not made any announcement about leaving the consortium, and if they are still using PARCC in its entirety for the 11th grade they probably won’t.

Colorado recently left PARCC, but do still purchase some PARCC test items. Louisiana and Massachusettes offer a hybrid assessment. So when Illinois makes it change it will leave two states and D.C who use it in its entirety.