Petition for Illinois to delay the launch of the PARCC test

November 9, 2014 at 10:35 pm 32 comments

You may have seen posts from Raise Your Hand already, but I’d urge people to consider signing this petition to ask the Illinois State Board of Education to delay the launch of the PARCC as the high stakes test in IL until some issues with the methodology are refined.

CPS itself is also in favor of a delay (which indicates the mess that this test is in.)

CPS and BBB alone don’t have the authority to delay the test launch since it’s a state decision.  To let ISBE know that both CPS and parents support delay, more signatures are needed on the petition.

Try the sample test here:   (I’ve tried it and it’s horribly, horribly clunky and cumbersome to use, particularly for math. As a research person, I see multiple ways that this methodology will contort the scores as a way to represent how much a child knows.)


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32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. walker  |  November 10, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I tried the math part and am very disappointed.

  • 2. realchicagomama  |  November 10, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Reblogged this on Chicago Mama and commented:
    As I wrote in October, the PARCC is a headache-inducer. I took the ELA sample, but CPSobsessed took the math version. RYH is addressing this through a moveon petition as well as a look at testing and authentic assessment at an event on 11/18.

  • 3. Chris  |  November 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    “I tried the math part and am very disappointed.”

    Which level? Definitely odd, but how odd varies with the testing level, imo.

  • 4. walker  |  November 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm


    It’s sample items (Math, 3-5). Item #3 out of 6, Part B.

  • 5. Chris  |  November 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Yeah, that’s weird, but it’s also been part of our kid’s math instruction thru those grades. So they should know how to do it, even if the question of ‘what’s the point’ is valid.

  • 6. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 11, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    @5 It’s not an issue of whether they should be able to do that, but whether asking a kid to click 48 times in a box is measure of his ability to find the single-digit factors of 48 or his ability to click 48 times.

    An analysis of the field test should have told us how well these kinds of items worked, but PARCC has issued no such an analysis. As of Aug., according to a someone in contact with PARCC staff, they were still uncertain what constructs the items had measured. Which is not surprising when you have questions like this.

    Basic questions about the scaling methods and test construction have not been answered. None of this would enable someone to cheat on the test, but it would explain what inferences can be drawn from the test. It’s November and we still don’t know what the cut-scores will be. We also don’t have any detail on the automated scoring system. The rival consortium issued a detailed report on their automated scoring research, but PARCC has put out nothing.

  • 7. Chris  |  November 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm


    Did you read to the end of my 34-word comment? I agree, “what’s the point” of that element of the curriculum? What’s the point of *testing* that element of the curriculum?

    But, it *is* part of the curriculum, and thus it is at least understandable that it is (potentially) on the test. And yeah, even at that, they should be able to tell us the point, and what’s measured, and how, etc etc.

  • 8. walker  |  November 11, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    I took Algebra II sample test and it’s pretty decent. They use a few good tricks that indeed test deeper understanding than 48 clicks to mark a rectangle or some clumsy questions for lower grades. So, the problem is not across all grades….at least in Math. I assume different people wrote questions.

  • 9. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 12, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    @8 The real question is how well actual algebra II classes match with the test content for algebra II. PARCC has put some of the CC-mandated statistics into that section because there is no separate statistics class for most students. This was a problem that CC math drafters understood. They noted: “These standards do not mandate the sequence of high school courses. However, the organization of high school courses is a critical component to implementation of the standards” (CCSSM, p.84) But putting the testing of statistics w/ algebra II gets us some really tough questions:

    Take a look at Algebra II,part II, question 16. This is the calculator section. Try finding the s.d with a TI-84 style graphing calculator. Good luck. I used Excel and it was a pain in the ass.

  • 10. walker  |  November 12, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    @9 You don’t need a calculator there. SD is given and it’s 2. But I agree that the question isn’t airtight. There are 2 means and 2 SDs for all boxes and for the sample.

  • 11. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 12, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    @10 I scrolled down to quickly. Makes the problem much easier.

    Also, it is not that hard to find an sd using a TI-84 once you know how, but it’s not intuitive.

    Didn’t realize that TI-8xs still cost over $100. More powerful computer algebra systems are free (e.g., Maxima).

    Rather ironic that makers of a computer-based test could not equip the test software with a calculator app.

  • 12. Diane J  |  November 13, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    PARCC is very good test. It focus more on critical thinking skills than memorization. That is probably why many find it strange and difficult. Everyone takes the same test and is in the same boat. However, if you are unsure of your childs abilities it is probably best to sign the petition and push it out further.

  • 13. cpsobsessed  |  November 13, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    @diane, I don’t think people have issue with the content. Give a hard test – who cares? The curve will still be the same.
    It’s the functionality of the test administration that gets in the way of demonstrating knowledge.
    I assume you’ve tried some practice tests and deemed the interface just fine?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 14. SoxSideIrish4  |  November 14, 2014 at 3:36 am

    12. Diane J | November 13, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I don’t feel PARCC is a very good test. Even the head of CPS (who I rarely agree with) has asked for it to be pushed back for a year. CPS and other districts realize the PARCC is not ready to use as an assessment for our children this year.

    13. cpsobsessed | November 13, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I agree…as more people are becoming aware of PARCC, more states are pushing back on PARCC. I took a sample test a few months back and I think it was 7th grade math (not sure)~it was ridiculous the manipulations they had to go through. My kids aren’t in 7th grade, but I think they would have difficulties with the test.

  • 15. SE Teacher and Mom  |  November 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

    @12…”PARCC is a very good test.” Can you tell me why you believe this to be true? I have not heard one person make such a bold statement.

  • 16. OTB Mom  |  November 15, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    @12 I’m doubtful that a standardized test can be good mechanism for measuring critical thinking. I suspect what it’s more likely to measure (at least as far as reading comprehension is concerned) is political correctness, ie the student’s ability to determine which multiple choice response best reflects the tester’s value of the text.) An interview, an essay, a portfolio, etc.–some other construct–is likely a better measure if we want to measure the ability to think critically–particularly to think critically about content. (And if we don’t want to think about critically about content, why not give an aptitude test and be done with it? Why try to measure learning at all?) I think it’s difficult (and PARCC seems to be proving this is the case) for a student to “bubble in” the results of their critical thinking. So, yes, I’d rather a standardized test stuck to measuring content.. Not because I doubt my kids but because that’s what a standardized test is most capable of measuring.

  • 17. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    The critical thinking, at least for the EoY maths, is no different from what we would find in the NAEP or SAT in terms of “critical thinking.” The first question on the 4th grade math test relies on the students memorizing a standard itself, not demonstrating that they understand it. Worse, the language used in the standard is rarely used in instruction. H. Wu, who was one of the drafters of the math standards, never uses two of the terms in his chapter on how to teach the same standard aside from when he states the standard itself. Why? Because he assumed that test-makers would not be so stupid as to actually expect students to memorize the standards themselves.

    The NAEP requires students to actual do geometry proofs, where the PARCC EoY geometry test has only a few drag and drop elements. Maybe the “performance-based assessment” in March will be different, but I would like to know how they plan to grade them. Based on the ISAT, which Pearson conducted, math explanation questions had the lowest levels of inter-rater reliability, with 58 to 65% of the raters agreeing on the same score for a math explanation in the 10% of actual answers that they had two raters read. Otherwise, only one rater read it. The highest level of math-explanation rater agreement was lower than the lowest level of agreement for any other category.
    So I’m skeptical that PARCC will do any better since Pearson is again doing the exam.

    They plan to machine-score many of the short and extended response reading answers. SmarterBalanced, the rival consortium, released study on how accurate its machine-scoring has been in trials. PARCC has not.

  • 18. walker  |  November 17, 2014 at 11:13 am

    @16 “I’m doubtful that a standardized test can be good mechanism for measuring critical thinking.”

    Standardized test such as GMAT (Critical Reasoning section) and LSAT (Logical Reasoning section + Analytical Reasoning sections) are pretty good in measuring critical thinking. So, it’s possible…. when it’s done right. By the way, they use mostly a multiple-choice format and it works great without any dragging/typing/48-times-clicking.

  • 19. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Logical and deductive thinking is distinct from “critical thinking.” The GMAT and the LSAT do an excellent job assessing logical thinking, especially under time-constraints, which is reasonable because a fair number of MBAs and JDs will need to engage in logical thinking quickly to keep their jobs.

    Critical thinking often requires logical and deductive thinking but the ability to critique what exists or challenge otherwise unquestioned assumptions is a different skill. The ability to interpret or re-interpret evidence and meanings is not identical to knowing how to set up a truth table. Just being logical doesn’t necessarily serve a JD or MBA well; they need critical capacities too.

    These capacities are, however, very difficult to measure en masse. There’s a psychological test where one is give a vertical board, a candle, a pin, some other items, and a box of matches. One then has to figure out a way to attach the candle vertically to the board. The trick is realizing that the matches are unnecessary — it’s the match box that matters. For many people, the match box is hidden because it is viewed simply as the container for the matches. Critical thinking is what enables one to see the box apart from the matches.

  • 20. IB Obsessed  |  November 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    @19 Agree completely. You must have taken logic and epistemology as an undergrad. Am I right?

  • 21. North Side Parent  |  November 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

    NEW TOPIC: CPS Board of Education approved revised 5 level “School Quality Rating” system (Level 1+, Level 1, Level 2+, Level 2, Level 3) at meeting last night, minutes have the description.

    Level 1+ will be the top rating for schools whose best practices will be shared. Level 1 earns principal autonomy and support from the network. Level 2+ is average performance that garners network oversight. Levels 2 and 3 are below average and lowest performance and will receive more intense oversight and support. Level 3 district schools could see their principals removed, new Local School Council elections ordered or turnarounds recommended.

    New grading scale here, p. 19:

  • 22. Chris  |  November 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    “I assume you’ve tried some practice tests and deemed the interface just fine?”

    “I took a sample test …it was ridiculous the manipulations they had to go through.”

    So, is a substantial part of the complaint about the test that it’s hard for the kids to enter the answer to the question?

    I know that’s not CB’s (primary) complaint, but is the primary complaint for others?

  • 23. cpsobsessed  |  November 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    It is my primary complaint but I haven’t gone through enough content to judge it.
    I am not a fan of some of the common core style math questions, but I’m an old fashioned math person (which doesn’t nec mean that one way is better.)
    I guess I wouldn’t mind some of the CC math stuff if I thought it was being taught well in the classrooms. I don’t know that it is.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 24. Chris  |  November 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    “It is my primary complaint ”

    Huh. I did one of them (algebra?) and was totally rusty on a bunch and was absolutely unfocused, so had some challenges with content, but didn’t think answer entry was too bad–and that was with reading no instructions and no practice. Obv with no time limit, either.

    I always thought that bubble filling for a multi-numeral answer was ridiculously difficult, and multiple choice *is* susceptible to strategy, so I dunno that I object to the interface–*assuming* that there is adequate instruction and practice opportunity (which, I know, there won’t be–but that’s a somewhat different issue).

    On the other point of “WTH is that supposed to be testing? And why is that knowledge important”, I agree that it hasn’t been adequately disseminated–unfortunately, the rollout and explanation of CC makes me think of Reagan’s nine most terrifying words in the English language.

  • 25. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  November 20, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    There’s still multiple choice questions on the PARCC. In fact, a fair number of the alleged innovations could be done on pencil & paper, like picking several answers rather than just one. You just need more bubbles on the bubble-sheet.

    Many people are just appalled at the poor quality of the questions themselves. Raise Your Hand and More than a Score have asked people to read the 3rd grade Pinkerton story. One question has pictures to go along with the story — this is supposedly to make it better for 3rd graders. All of this could be done on paper (a drop down menu is a multiple choice question). We have had over half of the respondents in all but one session, and then just over half, fail to get the correct answer.

    Please go to the 4th grade math test:

    The first question basically asks a child to pick the a CCSS standard. This has nothing to do with understanding the concept. I contacted one of the math standard drafters who also is a content adviser to the PARCC math group. He is a strong proponent of the standards and defends them publicly. But he is also a strong critic of how math textbooks, teacher ed programs, and assessments are written. Here is what he had to say about the 4th grade math, 1st question:

    The item about angles is completely unacceptable, but I had no hand in it at all. Part C is ambiguous because it does not say whether all five turns are clockwise or all five are counterclockwise, so it cannot be a correct answer no matter what.

    It is the correct answer according to the answer key. Now, to be fair, he also said, as have assessment experts, that because PARCC (and the rival SmarterBalanced) are new assessments, we should expect some bad items. The question is the magnitude of the bad items. 1% is teething pains. 5%, it sucks. His %s, my descriptors. Of course, the real problem is that we don’t know how many of the items will be disclosed, post administration. Indeed, this was the problem with the ISAT. 60-70% of the items were recycled each year, so only a handful of sample questions were ever disclosed. Some of them were rotten. Were they representative of all the operational items? I don’t know — despite its demise, neither the state nor Pearson has not released past items. But any accountability system that rests on the premise of “just trust us” is no accountability system at all.

  • 26. North Side Parent  |  November 21, 2014 at 10:42 am

    NEW TOPIC: Decatur Classical LSC moving toward plan to move school from West Rogers Park to Uptown in former (closed) Stewart Elementary building, expand school and add 7/8th grade:

    According to documents provided by the school, the LSC focused on coming up with 7th/8th grade expansion plans two years ago, after 40% of Decatur students did not receive “1st round seats” to selective enrollment CPS middle schools.

    ~70% of parents support a move of the school (in general).

    The new location, steps from the red line would make Decatur an option for many more families for whom the current location (Western edge of Rogers Park, 2 miles from the nearest CTA stop) makes it a non-starter.

  • 27. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I’m trying the Math Practice test again (6th grade.) I was going to try to make some screen shots to explain my challenges, but the
    pop-up tool that is needed to enter your information won’t be captured in a screen grab/Snipit tool, so I can’t really show the clunky parts.

    Initial note: A kid needs to be really familiar with this interface to work it and enter their information accurately. I used to do usability testing. This interface needs some serious user testing, especially given that it will be used by kids AND by kids with a wide range of computer skills.

    What I don’t like is the cumbersome mental work that gets in the way of answering a question. I enjoy math. I find it fun, like solving a puzzle. When I see the questions on the PARCC screen, it makes me wince and not want to do it, and somehow the interface gets in the way of thinking about the problem clearly. I hate that there is no scrap paper allowed (am I right about that?) Isn’t common core trying to teach kids to think about a problem in a realistic, non-memorization way?

    Joanne buys a rug with an area of 35/4 meters and a length of 7/2 meters.What is the width, in meters, of the rug?

    Maybe I want to draw a rectangle to help me think about it, envision it — isn’t that what CC is about, rather than entering 5/2? I had to find a box to click to enable a 2-box shape to pop up to enter my answer. I assume kids will be schooled on this and practice the interface ahead of time (time time time into test prep that is about an interface, not even reviewing material which I could argue has some benefit.)

    Ok, onward. I’m on a rant after just one question.

  • 28. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Q3: Enter your answer in the box:
    33.8 / 32.5 = ____________
    (it used an actual “divided by” sign, but I don’t have that on my computer.

    Is a 12yo supposed to do this in their head?
    I still can’t find anything online as to whether the kids get scrap paper. I’m going to have to imagine that paper is allowed. With paper, it’s challenging but not too too difficult to get the answer of 1.04.

  • 29. cpsobsessed  |  November 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Ok, I have completed the whole math test for 6th grade. Highly mind numbing (no fault of the test I don’t think, just the nature of the long tedious problems.) I’d feel really good if all US 6th graders could complete the problems, using any test methodology.

    I am going to assume that kids will get scrap paper and pencil to use, other wise several of the problems are impossible to do in one’s head (I haven’t confirmed this about the scrap paper, but will update when/if i find out.)

    I got more used to the interface but still find it very clunky and it gets in the way to my thinking. Practice will DEFINITELY help, so test prep kids (who do online practice) would have an edge for sure.
    some of the interface worked well and was fun to use, other parts were bothersome.

    The material ranged in difficulty – some was challenging even for me, others very easy. I don’t find the content TOO challenging but I don’t know that my son is as prepared as he needs to be to conquer these problems. between several years of everyday math, a couple math curriculum changes by now, and (what I consider to be) a lack of math practiced assignments AND breezing through concepts very quickly, I can’t say I’d expect him to do that well on this. I imagine other kids would face the same given their CPS math experience. I think it’ll do well at identifying the natural math kids and the schools that have been more diligent at teaching math.

    Truthfully, I’d like to see how the average US adult scores on this 6th grade math test.

    In summary: PARCC makes my head hurt and seems to take longer to figure out what I know than seems like it should. I feel the interface (for math) needs some improvements and I worry about the time involved in test prep and administration. Finally, I would like to know what CPS/IL is doing to help IL kids meet these goals, beyond buying books that say “common core” on the front.

  • 30. Rod Estvan  |  November 23, 2014 at 7:25 am

    The PARCC exam s given their complexity are going to pose particular problems for a large subgroup of students with disabilities who are not considered to have a cognitive impairment. To be crude about this using.the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) full scale IQ scores, we are here discussing students with full scale IQ scores in the range of 90 to 66. In special education jargon these students are often referred to in Individual Education Plans as having low normal intelligence. Statistically about 22 % of students between ages 6 and 16 will fall in this range, but among students identified with disabilities this percentage is much higher.

    For example among students identified with ADHD a much higher percentage score in the so called low normal range ( see for example or which both contain reviews of the literature ).

    The PARCC developers have hoped that accommodations for the test will allow the PARCC to be used by these students with so called low normal intelligence who have IEPs will have “valid results” or at this is what PARCC claimed this month ( see ). There was a massive discussion about this issue with thousands of comments submitted to PARCC. In my opinion given the depth and complexity of the assessment which you all have been commenting on I think the question of whether the results will be valid for the large subgroup of students with so called low normal intelligence is a crap shoot.

  • 31. Scratch Paper  |  November 24, 2014 at 1:58 am

    “I am going to assume that kids will get scrap paper and pencil to use, other wise several of the problems are impossible to do in one’s head.”

    I’d guess they get scratch paper but at least based on the 8th grade math test I went through there was nothing that was impossible to do without scratch paper. To do everything without scratch paper is at least 1/100 difficult, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now, I’m not sure testing the ability to do mental arithmetic is the best thing to focus on but it’s not the worst either. But I strongly suspect scratch paper is allowed.

  • 32. Chicago School GPS  |  March 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    So apparently ALL CPS 3rd-8th graders are taking it, instead of just 10%?

What do you think?

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