The problem with CCSS is that it was based on a "workplace analysis" that defined a one-size-fits-all pseudo-algebra II target in math. It's driven by the K-12 world that went out of its way to ignore college readiness tools currently used by colleges. PARCC is defining its own PLDs and cutoffs and only vaguely worries about correlating their data with existing tests. Also, the levels do NOT address the K-12 academic needs of those interested in STEM careers. PARCC is ignoring the ACT, SAT (I and II), AP tests, and they even ignore common remedial tests like ACCUPLACER and COMPASS.
What does it mean that ACT decided to split from PARCC to develop its own products? Specifically, they now have ACT-Explore for 8th and 9th grades, ACT-PLAN for 10th grade, and the ACT for 11th or 12th grades. These are tied into ACT-Aspire, a system that will cover K-12 development and testing.
What does it mean that the College Board is developing their own products? They have ReadiStep for middle school, the PSAT/NMSQT for 10th/11th grades, and the SAT. They have the SAT II and the AP classes and tests, soon to be supported by "SpringBoard", their grade 6-12 "Pre-AP" program.
And what about ACCUPLACER and COMPASS? Will colleges dump them and buy into an unknown and uncalibrated PARCC product that might have trouble calibrating its no-fluency-necesssary idea of education with the needs of colleges?
Who will drive this process, K-12 educators or colleges? This is a philosophical control issue.
Both the AP sequencene the College Board sequence build upon known quantities that are currently used by almost all colleges. They are fitting CCSS to their higher standards, not defining a curriculum that maxes out on barely college ready. I would give the College Board the edge because of their high-end AP and SAT II products, but I would give the edge to the ACT over the SAT. I think that Coleman at the College Board wants to adddress that "aptitude" issue.
So, what does CCSS/PARCC offer AT MOST?
Level 5 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a distinguished command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level. ... They are academically well prepared to engage successfully in entry-level, credit-bearing courses in College Algebra, Introductory College Statistics, and technical courses requiring an equivalent level of mathematics."
One can hope that real college expectations and curricula will eventually be driven back to the lower grades. But how long (if ever) will it take our PARCC state to come to grips with the idea that they have to define a path to the top end for all students; not just be happy if little urban Johnnie or Suzie makes it to the community college level; not just fool themselves with terms like "college ready" and "distinguished". With a choice of standards products I'm hopeful, but only over the long term.