PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determination Policy in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics & Policy-Level Performance Level Descriptors

This document, adopted by PARCC after extensive public feedback from K-12 educators, higher education faculty, parents, and community members, has been used to guide the development of items and tasks for the PARCC assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics. It will also serve to guide the performance levels for the PARCC assessments. PARCC states that this document “will provide policymakers, educators, parents, and students with a clear signal about the level of academic preparation needed for success in these postsecondary courses,” as well as a “strong indicator of college and career readiness that can be used to set performance goals at any level and show progress towards those goals.”

Content Comments 

The goals of this document support both ESEA and CSAI goals; however, some of the claims may be overstated. In particular, the document does not state any limitations in the setting of achievement levels and their descriptors which are well known to researchers and practitioners working in this area. Typically, and it appears to be the case in this situation as well, the descriptors and levels themselves are not supported by actual tryouts of the assessments with a large enough pool of students in each purported achievement level that supports the validity of the descriptor or level. The authors indicate that the levels in fact will not be set until the summer of 2015 at the earliest. Further the setting of achievement levels and descriptors for performance tasks may well face even more validity issues if for no other reason that there are very few tasks and the scoring is typically less dependable than other types of tasks. That said, achievement levels and descriptors are typically prone to these issues, and PARCC seems to steer a good course in choosing 5 levels rather than 3 or 4 so that teachers and schools are likely to have somewhat better information to make practitioner decisions. Communications quality is somewhat above average for this type of resource and utility could be considerably high given the vast scope of the assessments and their achievement levels. Evidence of effectiveness, as suggested earlier, is below average.