kitchen table math, the sequel: Common Core PARCC Test?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Common Core PARCC Test?

Our state is part of a 24 state group that will use the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests that are (will be) tied to the Common Core Standards (CCSS). There was a big article about it in our local newspaper. It is a step up from NCLB, but it's still "one size fits all". Schools will still be able to get away with using curricula like Everyday Math.

The claim that:

"Students who will know if they are on track to graduate ready for college and careers"

is more true than for our old NCLB test, but it says little about being ready for STEM careers. You can meet CCSS standards and still have career doors close.

The interesting thing I see is that it's a 24 state group working on a common test. It seems that we are moving towards a national curriculum and test. This should provide better data to compare states and towns. Our state will have to compete with others. The way it is now, our NCLB tests can only be compared with two other states using the same test. However, they have to (once again) restart the collection of longitudinal data.

I haven't seen sample tests, so I might change my mind.


Anonymous said...


They are not tests but assessments. Activities, projects, group working up of a problem and writing solution, papers. All of those are what is called formative assessments.

What little knowledge there is is limited to overall concepts that relate to desired skills or social and emotional learning. Desired values.

How can you compare when you have different activities for different students graded based on rubrics?

That was just an Arne Duncan marketing line. It does not square with how these assessments work. Creating the stipulated artefact or engaging in the activity or demonstrating desired behavior creates a presumption of knowledge.

We will have very little idea of what our students know but everything about Common Core is designed to limit what they can know or do. All the faddish ideas that created the frustrations detailed for years on KTM if given steroids is what is coming with Common Core's implementation.

concerned said...

I agree with "anonymous" and respectfully request that readers check out Ze'ev Wurman's ~
Education to Raise Technology Consumers instead of Technology Creators.

As predicted by many when [WEAK]Common Core Math Standards came out, weak math yields WEAKER science standards.

Please talk to secondary math/science teachers as well as entry level college instructors. You will find that the claim of college readiness is just that, a baseless claim.

concerned said...

Readers might also want to check out Jay Greene's blog post "Rick Hess Nails National Standards on Their Stealth Strategy"

NCLB and Common Core are very different initiatives.

SteveH said...

This is from their website:

"To address the priority purposes, PARCC will develop an assessment system comprised of four components. Each component will computer-delivered and will leverage technology to incorporate innovations.

•Two summative, required assessment components designed to:
◦Make “college- and career-readiness” and “on-track” determinations,
◦Measure the full range of standards and full performance continuum, and
◦Provide data for accountability uses, including measures of growth.
•Two non-summative, optional assessment components designed to:
◦Generate timely information for informing instruction, interventions, and professional development during the school year.
•An additional third non-summative component will assess students’ speaking and listening skills"

The article in our paper said that it would be used in place of the current NCLB test. From the above, they say they will have summative assessments.

This is what they have on their site for grades 3-8.

"•Summative Assessment Components:
◦Performance-Based Assessment (PBA) administered as close to the end of the school year as possible. The ELA/literacy PBA will focus on writing effectively when analyzing text. The mathematics PBA will focus on applying skills, concepts, and understandings to solve multi-step problems requiring abstract reasoning, precision, perseverance, and strategic use of tools
◦End-of-Year Assessment (EOY) administered after approx. 90% of the school year. The ELA/literacy EOY will focus on reading comprehension. The math EOY will be comprised of innovative, machine-scorable items"

I've noticed in my son's high school that all of his course syllabi now tie into specific parts of CCSS. It seems to be driving everything and that specific CCSS goals are being pushed down to grades K-8. I think the CCSS standards are too vague and still set low standards, but it's better than what we have, and our state will have to compete with other states.

"All the faddish ideas that created the frustrations detailed for years on KTM if given steroids is what is coming with Common Core's implementation."

I'm not a fan of CCSS, but is this true? The CCSS standards are better than what we have, but, of course, they don't go far enough and are not explicit about mastery goals. I don't think it's worse, but it might just end up being pretty much the same thing in different clothes.

I'd like to be optimistic, but if it doesn't get rid of Everyday Math and change their view on ensuring mastery, then the results will be pretty much the same. Our affluent town will still produce good results and the kids who do well in math will still have to get help at home.

SteveH said...

"Ze'ev Wurman's ~
Education to Raise Technology Consumers instead of Technology Creators."

This was true before. They talk of STEM, but they don't have a clue what that means. I really believe that they don't have a clue. They don't or can't see that for many, it's all over by 7th grade. Many educators apparently feel that you have to be a genetic math brain to get to a STEM career.

CCSS doesn't solve the K-6 math problem. It claims that it is college and career driven, but it's one size fits all. How can that be with STEM? Pseudo-algebra II by the end of high school might sound good, but it doesn't meet the needs of STEM careers and it is an awful burden for many others, especially those already ruined by K-6 math. They look to high school to fix math, but they really need to look at K-6.

In general, CCSS standards set higher expectations than our current NCLB standards, but they are still vague. They still have loopholes. They still allow schools to keep the onus on the students and their parents.

Having many states providing the same assessment data might be useful, but not if it's just used to do better at teaching Everyday Math. Where is the critical thinking? Where is the understanding? Ask the parents of the best students what they do at home.

Am I a supporter of CCSS? Of course not! Wait, what is the alternative? It will be interesting to see the actual tests, but I'm not optimistic. It will be better, but I don't expect it will fix the problem.

The fundamental problems I see with CCSS are that the K-6 expectations are too low and that the curriculum mapping of high school kids to college and careers is one-dimensional. What if a student wants to go to a vocational college (the ones in our area give degrees) and wants to major in electronics? What math is required for that? Don't look at the CCSS document. Look at the school's website. Also, the STEM doors are shut by 7th grade for many students because of curricula and low expectations. It's not a matter of engagement or motivation. It's low expectations. Defining a pseudo-algebra II end point in high school doesn't guarantee much. For many, algebra II will be a struggle and not a base camp for future math learning. It is not a preparation for college if there is nowhere to go but down.

Barry Garelick said...

Steve, I don't believe CCSS will get rid of CCSS, given that the standard algorithms for subtraction/addition, multiplication/division are pushed off until at LEAST 4th grade. In the draft they were required much earlier, but the people at EM wrote a scathing criticism of the draft standards accusing them of going "backwards" to the days of "pencil and paper" math, which they felt was inappropriate for 21st century learning, blah blah (sound of vomiting). CCSS were revised. So in the interim, prior to kids learning the standard algorithms the "standards" are for students to know various "strategies" for doing addition, subtraction etc. See Where's the Math has a good summary of this.

Sounds like EM to me. Also, CCSS has a hidden pedagogy of student-centered, inquiry-based instruction. Given the teacher's "rap" that was posted here a while ago, it's pretty evident that they are being interpreted that way.

The comments of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math on CCSS are here. here.

Barry Garelick said...

I meant to say in my comment above, "I don't believe CCSS will get rid of Everyday Math." Sorry for the error.

SteveH said...

"I don't believe CCSS will get rid of CCSS"

Am I reduced to placing hope on a litle bit better than bad? Is optimism in this case just a form of insanity?

"Also, CCSS has a hidden pedagogy of student-centered, inquiry-based instruction."

OK Barry, I've sunk back down into the muck again.

SteveH said...

I like your original sentence better. CCSS will only ever be CCSS.

Restore Oklahoma Public Education said...

CCSS is a national curriculum. It is Arne Duncan's way of making states do exactly what they want states to do by giving them money to do it. This is wrong. We all want kids to be properly educated, but testing them isn't the way to do that...who's going to grade all those essays? How much will this cost? Just so you know, ACT provides a means to do exactly what CCSS purports to do - allowing comparisons of educational benchmarks across and among states - and many states already pay for these programs. CCSS is also attached to a database (P20) that is tasked with getting data on, not only every PUBLIC school kid, but those that "aren't tested", ie; HOME SCHOOL kids. If you think this is about education, you are wrong. It's about data collection and control. Period.

SteveH said...

"...making states do exactly what they want states to do ..."

What would that be, exactly? I don't see the political agenda in this. I just see low expectations.

"ACT provides a means to do exactly what CCSS purports to do -"

ACT would also correlate better to what colleges expect. There is no correlation (yet) between between CCSS tests and college. The whole analysis of CCSS was wrong. They had to reinvent the wheel. If they use it like the NCLB tests, then it will only define a low end cutoff designed to avoid remedial courses in college. They could use Accuplacer for that. Unfortunately, standards based on the ACT would be used in the same way.

There is also the issue of what you do in the lower grades. They might claim that if you do well on the CCSS standards all throughout K-12, you will do well (?) on the ACT or SAT. And, even if you used the ACT in high school, you still have to define and map the curriculum and expectations back into the lower grades. These will be mapped at the lower end and not the higher end.

This raises a fundamental flaw of national testing. The ACT and SAT tests do not define a proper curriculum goal. Even the SAT II achievement tests miss the mark. By high school, kids separate by ability and willingness. National testing might provide some standards for a low cut-off or about getting to college without remediation, but it is of no help to the better students. I have never cared about state testing for my son. It's meaningless. I wouldn't care if the testing was based on the ACT or SAT mapped backwards to the lower grades. What you really need to do is to map the AP courses back to the lower grades.

You have to first define a curriculum path for the best students and then define alternate paths for different careers once kids get to high school. What schools do now is to assume that kids in K-8 are not on that top track, and that the better kids will somehow figure out how to get to and stay on the AP tracks in high school.

These low standards allows them to keep curricula like Everyday Math that closes STEM career doors by 7th grade. They might point to students who do make the transition, but they don't understand why that happens. Urban kids with little help at home have no chance to get to STEM careers... by definition.

As I have mentioned in the past, the CCSS workplace analysis was flawed. They averaged out career expectations to define a pseudo algebra II math minimum goal for high school. This average is too much for some and too little for others. For some, the doors have closed, and for others, they could be better helped in their career paths than by being forced to complete an algebra II class.

For math, the problem is that you have to either separate kids by ability in the lower grades or provide a top curriculum path for all. This is impossible to do with social promotion and full inclusion. Separating kids in math at 7th grade is too late. Some (non-urban) schools have moved the separation to earlier grades, but the downside is that schools still don't know whether kids are on that track because of their teaching or in spite of it.

Barry Garelick said...

For a discussion of the national assessment, see this.

Steve Wilson also gives an :excellent analysis of the CCSS "assessment"; one of the best I've read.

SteveH said...

"Ultimately, the actual assessments will tell us all what SBAC thinks is important"

But we all know what that means - more of the same. Communication and understanding over proof of mastery of the basics. There is still no linkage between mastery and understanding.

You would think that with all of the talk of STEM careers that K-8 educators would track careers back to college degrees back to high school courses (and SAT II scores) and finally back to K-8. Better math was driven (due to a curriculum gap) into our 7th and 8th grades, but the push backwards loses all sense of reality when it hits K-6 pedagogy and full inclusion.

The fundamental flaw of CCSS is that it is based on averages and one pseudo-algebra II goal. It's not enough for STEM and it's too much (or not the right material) for other careers. It allows the lower grades to keep doing what they are doing.

Barry, does the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math have a position on where to go next? Is it possible to influence the assessments being developed by groups like PARCC? Can CCSS ever be something other than CCSS?

Barry Garelick said...

Steve, Yes, the Coalition will be developing a statement regarding the assessments being developed by PARCC and SBAC. We would like to see assessments that are related to content, not to process. Otherwise, we will end up with a bunch of PISA-like assessments that continue the feeding frenzy of programs like EM, Investigations, CMP and the like, and which also encourage the inquiry-based, student-centered approach in lower grades.

CCSS will never be anything other than CCSS. But it has both content and process standards. If we can shift the focus to content standards rather than process, then the people in the "rap" video will actually have to do more than be guides on the side.

concerned said...

CC National Standards lack of content doesn't bode well for American Competitiveness