Arne Duncan gave $360 million to two consortia to create tests for the Common Core. By law, no federal official may attempt to direct, control, or influence curriculum or instruction, but every one either ignores the law or pretends that tests have nothing to do with what is taught or how.

Mercedes Schneider here takes a close look at the efforts of one of those consortia to set achievement levels so everyone will know who is college ready.

“SBAC has purportedly anchored its assessment to empirically unanchored CCSS. How doing so is supposed to serve public education is an elephant in the high-stakes assessment room.

“Regarding its assessment scoring, SBAC decided upon cut scores that divide individual student scores into four “achievement levels.” SBAC knows it is peddling nonsense but does so anyway, apparently disclaiming, “Hey, we know that these achievement levels and their cut scores are arbitrary, but we have to do this because No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is making us. But we want to warn about using the achievement-level results of this high-stakes test for any high-stakes decisions…”

“The reality is that the media will publish percentages of students falling into the four categories as though the SBAC-created classification is infallible, and once again, schools, teachers, and students will be stigmatized.

“Forget about any cautions or disclaimers. Offer a simplistic graphic, and the media will run with it.”

I think it is fair to say that Schneider thinks the standards and tests are harmful nonsense.