Search results for: "gerri songer"

Gerri K. Singer, an educator in Illinois, performed a Lexile analysis of four major standardized tests. The Lexile rating measures the difficulty of the language.

She analyzed sample questions from PARCC, SAT, SBA, and ACT.

Gerri K. Songer, a literacy specialist in Illinois, here explains what is wrong with the Common Core tests:




I was asked by my EA President and the Superintendent of IL HS Township Dist. 214 to review Smarter Balanced, ACT, SAT, and PARCC. The following is a portion of my review:


“In terms of text complexity, ACT, SAT, and PARCC all use excessively high level text. PARCC is by far the worst assessment for many reasons, some of them including the use of multiple passages between which comparisons and contrasts are made; finite detail-oriented questions; and multi-step cognitive analysis. Yet, the ACT disseminated last March resembled PARCC in reading and mathematics, with the exception of multiple passage comparison/contrast. If the agenda of both ACT and SAT is to become more like PARCC, then one, in essence, wouldn’t be any better than another.


I’m still going through the SAT materials, so I’m not able to make any conclusions about this assessment yet. I don’t see anything strikingly different in Smarter Balanced, other than the listening portion of this assessment. Like PARCC, it contains multi-passage comparison/contrast, but at least the text used in these comparisons is shorter. Text is still excessively high. One significant difference ACT has over other assessments is the use of the following scaffolding: This format is easier for teachers to work with, and it helps them target individual skills on which to focus in different level courses and grade levels.


There is no research I have come across that supports the use of archaic vocabulary used in primary source documents such as the Declaration of Independence to “level the playing field” in terms of comprehension. In fact, research supports the opposite. The single most important component of reading comprehension is background knowledge. Even when students cannot understand vocabulary terms used in a reading passage, they can still glean meaning from text using context to compensate for words they don’t understand.


Using archaic vocabulary only favors high achieving, high socio-economic students who have the fortitude and patience to weed through confusing, complex, and unfamiliar text. To understand this from the students’ point of view, I have to ask myself, how intelligent would I appear if I were assessed using text written in Spanish? I know some Spanish, but I’m not fluent in it, and such an assessment certainly wouldn’t appropriately or adequately assess my ability to compare, contrast, synthesize, apply, etc., information for purpose of extracting meaning.


Not only do these assessments not assess what they claim to assess, but I’m also convinced, based on brain research, they are actually harmful to students. The brain only has so much neural support. If the brain is trained through repetition to narrow this neural support to a specific region of the brain, then neural activity will supply less support, or perhaps no longer support, other very important areas of the brain, specifically those areas allowing for the ability to think conceptually and creatively.


Ray Charles was born with sight, but lost his sight early on in his childhood. Once he lost his sight, his senses of hearing and touch became more acute. This happened because neural activity once supporting sight was redirected to support other senses – hearing and touch. Without sight, there was no need for neural activity in this region of the brain, so neurons travelled to other areas that did need support. Fortunately, genius for Ray Charles evolved through his auditory modality in the form of musical, artistic expression.


It is exceedingly concerning that our assessment practices could likely be obstructing the natural development of human thought processes, and my heartfelt message is that this isn’t a question of what test is better or worse – this is an issue of morality and calls for careful consideration as to what we as educators are doing to our students in our effort to neatly package their performance into statistical boxes that are misleading, at best, and that lie, at worst. We are using quantitative assessment to evaluate qualitative data – it simply cannot be done. We, as mature adults, are far more advanced than what our cognitive abilities indicated as adolescents.


Unfortunately, government is dictating educational practice, but perhaps it’s time to evaluate the government’s ability to determine what sound educational practice is. The original intent behind the use of standardized assessment was a noble one, but it has spun out of control, and current research suggests it may actually be detrimental to student learning and damaging to the neurology of the brain.


My best advice is to “take the path less traveled by;” Robert Frost claims it “made all the difference.”


I’ve always believed students were the educators top priority, even if this means making very difficult decisions with which many may disagree. Funding is not a priority if it comes at the expense of our students’ well-being. They are in our care, and we, as adults and as educators, are supposed to know and do what is “educationally” sound for them.


We make mistakes, we learn from them, and then we adjust accordingly. We aren’t perfect, but when there is strong evidence indicating our assessment practices are very likely damaging to the natural development of neural activity in the human brain, we should stop what we are doing until this evidence is analyzed through appropriate research. My bet is this could be as simple as speaking with doctors specializing in the neurology of the brain.”

Gerri Songer compares ACT and PARCC and finds them both wanting , both developmentally inappropriate.

She begins that she used to think that ACT “is a dreadful attempt to assess student learning. Now that PARCC has hit the scene, ACT is beginning to look significantly better!”

Songer shows that both tests are beyond the cognitive levels of most high school students.

She then argues:

“Albert Einstein once said, ““Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Making things simple is true genius. Einstein’s first job was that of a patent clerk. He analyzed the ideas of others and simplified them, communicating them in a way most could understand. “Anyone can complicate things. But it takes patience, probing questions and creative thinking to simplify. Whatever problem you are facing it’s probably not as complicated as you think – but we often make it so. If you want to solve more problems, simplify them. The real genius is turning complexity into simplicity.”

“As much as our test makers seem to love using archaic language from primary sources written by our founding fathers at the birth of our American nation, somehow they must have overlooked Thomas Paine‘s Common Sense, “IN the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense: and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day.”

“Let me break that down for our test makers, “I’m going to make this plain and simple, using the mental faculty of common sense: Keep an open mind and listen to what I have to say!”

“Perhaps Arne Duncan would benefit from taking a look at Henry David Thoreau‘s Civil Disobedience, “I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.“

“In case you didn’t get that, Arne, let me help you, “Keep your nose out of public education – you obviously know nothing about it, and educators clearly do.”

“Students are not developmentally able to complete the multi-step, finitely detailed, mental manipulation of text needed to process information at the level of sophistication used by PARCC. The frontal lobe of the human brain is not fully developed until after age 20. The frontal lobe is concerned with reasoning, planning, problem-solving, parts of speech, executive functions (organization), judgment, emotions, and behavioral control. It allows for abstract thinking, an understanding of humor (subtle witticisms and word plays), sarcasm, irony, deception, and the mental processes of others. Other functions include: memory, sequencing of events, flexibility in thinking processes, attentiveness of focus.

“High school students are at varying stages of their cognitive development, yet both ACT and PARCC require they perform intellectually at the graduate level (1395L), or at the level of an accountant (1400L) or scientist (1450L). This is an unfair, unrealistic, and inappropriate expectation that assessments such as ACT and PARCC has placed on students. Educators MUST stop bending to legislative controls and demands upon education. Studies show that standardized testing is not the best predictor of college success.

“Human intelligence is so multifaceted, so complex, so varied, that no standardized testing system can be expected to capture it,” says William Hiss. Hiss is the former dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine — one of the nation’s first test-optional schools. “My hope is that this study will be a first step in examining what happens when you admit tens of thousands of students without looking at their SAT scores,” Hiss says. “And the answer is, if they have good high school grades, they’re almost certainly going to be fine.”

“The nonsubmitters [of Standardized Testing Scores] are doing fine in terms of their graduation rates and GPAs, and significantly outperforming their standardized testing.” In other words, those students actually performed better in college than their SAT and ACT scores might lead an admissions officer to expect. For both those students who submitted their test results to their colleges and those who did not, high school grades were the best predictor of a student’s success in college. And kids who had low or modest test scores, but good high school grades, did better in college than those with good scores but modest grades.

“Educators MUST remember the original intent of standardized testing: “A big test, the theory went, would allow more ‘diamond in the rough’ students to be found and accepted to top schools, regardless of family connections or money.” Today, standardized testing is used to filter students and to attack teachers, school districts, and public education as a whole. It is used as a means for capitalists to exploit children, dedicated professionals, and democracy to gain control of what they perceive as a new, untapped, money-making entity, public education. If the American public has any difficulty figuring out what this will look like, read Upton Sinclair’s, The Jungle. This novel portrays the impact American greed has on the weak, the innocent, and the underprivileged. The Jungle is the novel that brought about attention to our need for unions and federal protection over its American workforce.

“I urge educators to call for an indefinite moratorium on the implementation of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to assess Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I also advocate eliminating standardized testing all together, and replacing it with the use of GPA and class placement as an indicator of college and career success.”

Gerri K. Songer is a literacy specialist and Chair of Illinois Township High School District 214. Here she reminds us of the limitations and misuses of standardized testing.


Songer writes:

What good is a dot that is not connected?

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) proponents assert that consistent, rigorous education standards are key to a competitive business climate. Yet, advocates of CCSS and standardized assessments such as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and ACT fail to acknowledge that the standards currently imposed on public education are faulty, inappropriate, and inaccessible to most students. They are in no way a means to this idealistic end.

There is no argument curriculum should be consistent and rigorous, yet standards must meet the needs of the population they serve and not pigeonhole students into a category in which they do not belong. Both PARCC and ACT assume all students will pursue a career requiring post-secondary education offered through a four-year college or university. This just simply is not the case. There are multiple intelligences, and students are unique in terms of their goals and aspirations; they do not define success in the same manner and cannot be crammed through the same academic filter. Not to mention, high school students are still in the process of developing cognitively. These are some of the more obvious flaws, yet there is another much more subtle shortcoming.

ACT and PARCC are standardized assessments that are inaccessible to most students, using text that is too complex and requiring a level of cognition that is completely inappropriate. They are designed as a filter and used to skim the “cream” off the top of the bell-shaped curve. Students who fall into the category of “cream” are admitted into the best colleges and are eligible for scholarships based on their “academic merits”.

What advocates of standardized testing fail to understand is that both ACT and PARCC promote students who demonstrate the wrong type of intellectual functioning by filtering for those who are highly developed in mental processing requiring specific parts of the brain, such as rote memory and language for example. Students who display this type of acute cognitive processing function at a lower level of intellect than those who process information conceptually.

Take, for example, a child who was born with sight but later in life became blind – Ray Charles. When a specific part of the brain became inactive, his sight, the neurotransmitters that brought information to and from this part of the brain diverted to support other parts of his brain. Ray Charles lost his sight, but his senses of hearing, touch, and smell became more acute. This is because these senses were enhanced by the neurotransmitters that once supported his sight.

People who have specific areas of their brain that are highly developed, such as the area of the temporal lobe that processes language auditorily, are lacking support from neurotransmitters in other areas of the brain such as the occipital or frontal lobes, which manipulate information visually or implement problem solving and reason. Therefore, these learners remember much, but they are cognitively weak in areas that would support a heightened conceptual ability, and consequently apply this knowledge to very little.

The same memory can be stored in a variety of different areas of the brain, depending upon how that memory is processed. For example, the same memory can be stored in the occipital lobe, temporal lobe, and parietal lobe if it was seen, heard, and manipulated. Yet, research shows that when two tasks are done simultaneously that require different parts of the brain, the amount of brain activation in both brain regions is reduced, “It appears that the brain has limits and can only do so much at one time,” argues Marcel Just, a psychology professor and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “You can’t just keep piping new things through,” he said, and expect the brain to keep up.” Earlier studies show that “. . . when a single area of the brain, like the visual cortex, has to do two things at once, like tracking two objects, there is less brain activation than occurs when it watches one thing at a time,” Just said. This research shows that those who demonstrate heightened ability to perseverate on tasks requiring support from a specific region of the brain will lack the support of other regions of the brain.

A brain that actually is highly cognitively developed is one that processes information conceptually. In this case, neurotransmitters provide balanced support to multiple areas of the brain, not specific areas. This learner may not process information as quickly, and it may take repetition to commit information to memory, but when this learner processes information, he makes connections – his learning is deep learning. A person with such brain functioning can see the whole, and can understand how the parts effect the whole, rather than perseverate on specific details. Those in roles of leadership should be “big picture”, holistic thinkers – the lines. Those in subordinate positions should be “the detail people” – the dots, as is evident in Duncan’s pitiful functioning as Secretary of Education.

Albert Einstein didn’t just regurgitate the academic processes of mathematics and science, rather he understood how a formula produced a parabola; which is a slice of a cone; which is a geometric figure influenced by the physical properties of space and time; and these physical properties not only affected the cone, but also those of similar geometric construction throughout the universe, and etc. Einstein made connections – his mental processes consisted of lines, not dots. In addition, he didn’t just ‘come up with the right answer’, he perfected his formulas over time and persevered despite error after error, setback after setback.

The “cream” that proponents of CCSS and standardized testing should attempt to identify are those found beneath the top ten percent of that bell-shaped curve. They should look for learners who do not perseverate, but those able to contemplate and connect the dots. Dots who are not connected will ineffectually produce imbalance, disharmony, and dysfunction. This would not promote a competitive business climate – just an educated guess, from a line.

Gerri K. Songer maintains that the Common Core standards misunderstands how students learn to read. In a previous post, she demonstrated that the reading levels of PARCC were set so high and were so unrealistic that they would cause a very high failure rate.

New Research on Text Complexity – CCSS vs. Sound Educational Practice

By: Gerri K. Songer, Education Chair – Illinois Township High School District 214

Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) offers a review of research asserting that it is important for students to read complex text in order to be successful in meeting college and career challenges. CCSS argues, “The research shows that while the complexity of reading demands for college, career, and citizenship have held steady or risen over the past half century, the complexity of texts students are exposed to has steadily decreased in that same interval. In order to address this gap, the CCSS emphasize increasing the complexity of texts students read as a key element in improving reading comprehension.”

The study in Appendix A evaluates six different computer programs:

ATOS by Renaissance Learning
Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) by Questar Assessment, Inc.
The Lexile Framework for Reading by MetaMetrics
Reading Maturity by Pearson Education
SourceRater by Educational Testing Service
Easability Indicator by Coh-Metrix
The different qualitative dimensions include:

1. STRUCTURE – Texts of low complexity tend to have simple, well-marked, and conventional structures, whereas texts of high complexity tend to have complex, implicit, and (in literary texts) unconventional structures.

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text that does not follow standard convention rules (i.e. text without an identifiable pattern).

2. LANGUAGE CONVENTIONALITY AND CLARITY – Text that rely on literal, clear, contemporary, and conversational language tend to be easier to read than texts that rely on figurative, ironic, ambiguous, purposefully misleading, archaic, or otherwise unfamiliar language (such as general academic and domain-specific vocabulary).

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text that is unclear, misleading, old, unfamiliar, ironic, and figurative (text that doesn’t say what it means).

3. KNOWLEDGE DEMANDS – Texts that make few assumptions about the extent of readers’ life experiences and the depth of their cultural/literary and content/discipline knowledge are generally less complex than are texts that make many assumptions in one or more of those areas.

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text with which few people can identify in terms of life experience.

4. LEVELS OF MEANING (literary texts) OR PURPOSE (informational texts) – Literary texts with a single level of meaning tend to be easier to read than literary texts with multiple levels of meaning (such as satires, in which the author’s literal message is intentionally at odds with his or her underlying message). Similarly, informational texts with an explicitly stated purpose are generally easier to comprehend than informational texts with an implicit, hidden, or obscure purpose.

Translation: CCSS finds it more desirable for students to read text that has multiple meanings with information that is implied, hidden, or obscure.

SUMMARY: CCSS advocates utilizing text for educational purposes that follows no pattern, that is unclear and misleading, that few people can identify with, and that has multiple meanings.

REALLY? This must go against every best practice strategy in existence! Perhaps this explains why politicians seem to be clueless.
In the quotation above, therefore, CCSS must be demonstrating the following skills:

“The research shows that while the complexity of reading demands for college, career, and citizenship have held steady or risen over the past half century . . . “

Purposely Mislead the Reader (PMR): It has most likely stayed the same over the past half century.

” . . . the complexity of texts students are exposed to has steadily decreased in that same interval.”

Obscure Information Using Multiple Meanings (OIMM): What type of complexity was actually analyzed in the research? From what study was this information taken?

Conclusions Based on Lack of Experience (CBLE): It is obvious CCSS has very little to no experience in helping students become better at reading because they would never advocate for text that follows no pattern, that is unclear and misleading, that few people can identify with, and that has multiple meanings as a means for improving comprehension.

“In order to address this gap . . . “

Figurative Language Lacking Patternization (FLLP): This must be figurative language because all educators know this is not actually happening. The inferred meaning is, “in order to steal public funding and confound future generations of America.” There is no pattern to support a gap actually exists, let alone that CCSS can bridge it. (If truth be told, I made up the term ‘patternization’ as it applies to text complexity. If CCSS advocates misleading, confusing, calling something something that it isn’t, and implying misinformation, I thought I’d give it a shot.)

“. . . increasing the complexity of texts students read as a key element in improving reading comprehension.”

Satiristic Assertion (SA): I have to call this one satiristic assertion because it’s really funny, yet hysterically tragic. Reading comprehension will not be increased by increasing the complexity of text in the manner proposed by CCSS. (I made up Satiristic Assertion too; although, I don’t think CCSS gives bonus points for creativity.)

Reading comprehension is a skill; it is just like learning to throw a football, make a basket, or hit a baseball. Athletes become good at their sport because they consistently practice individual skills.

Recall the first time you learned to ride a bike, throw a ball, or swim. Imagine how, in the beginning, someone demonstrated these activities. Yet, you could only learn so much from watching someone else; eventually, you had to give it a try yourself. With repetition and time, you became proficient in these activities, and perhaps, you may have ultimately excelled at and enjoyed them.

Apply these activities to reading. In the beginning, reading is modeled and taught. But, students can only learn so much from observing others read. At some point, students need to read for themselves. If they practice, they will become proficient, and in the end, they can excel and even enjoy this skill.

In order for students to read, they must practice reading consistently (a minimum of several 20 minute intervals each day) using text that has a vocabulary they understand and a level of complexity they are cognitively able to manipulate. I advocate that students read material they connect with and enjoy, so they are motivated to read rather than turned off by it. As time goes by and students demonstrate mastery of comprehension skills (finding the main idea; identifying supporting details; recognizing sequential, comparative, and cause-effect relationships; understanding the meaning of words; and making generalizations and conclusions) the complexity of text increases, as does vocabulary. I’m not against increasing text complexity, I am against increasing it in a manner aligned with the study produced by CCSS.

As a side note, sequence is a difficult skill for students with learning disabilities to master since most neurologically-based academic deficits include a processing deficit in the area of short-term (working) memory. Sequence is a skill that requires short-term memory; therefore, students with an academic deficit in the area of reading benefit from scaffolded instruction when practicing this skill.

As an English teacher, I would define text complexity in terms of the conventions used to produce the text at sound level and word level(decoding), and at the paragraph level, multi-paragraph level, single text level, and multi-text level (comprehension). These steps apply to all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction, and informational text.

1. A simple sound would consist of one letter: | f |.
2. A complex sound increases in complexity based on the number of letters blended together: | ph | is more complex than | f |.
3. A simple word would be one syllable: cat.
4. A complex word increases in complexity as it increases in syllables: feline is a more complex word than cat.
5. A simple sentence is one that contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.
6. A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator.
7. A complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinator such asbecause, since, after, although, or when (and many others) or a relative pronoun such as that, who, or which.
8. A simple paragraph would consist of applying comprehension strategies exclusively to one paragraph.
9. Multi-paragraph complexity would increase as the number of paragraphs increase.
10. Simple text would consist of applying comprehension strategies to a text promoting a single point of view.
11. Multi-text complexity would increase as the number of differing viewpoints, either within a single text or within multiple texts, increase.

An error I find that is commonly made in reading instruction is based on the lack of understanding behind how fluency should be used. I have observed that mega-corporations producing reading materials often promote fluency when soliciting comprehension materials.

Fluency is a skill needed for students who are reading at the level of decoding. When these students begin to put together sounds and to form words, fluency is important so students can hear the sounds put together to form a word. At this level, they also need to read more fluently in order to process, or manipulate, the information they read. Sounds become words, words become sentences, and sentences become paragraphs.

Yet there is a grey area between decoding and comprehension where fluency is no longer the objective, comprehension is. No teacher would tell a student struggling with comprehension to, “read faster” (fluency). It is at this point where students actually benefit from slowing down and interacting with text using strategies such as annotation and materials such as graphic organizers related to individual comprehension skills as listed above.

Once students get to this level, it is purely a matter of consistent practice and raising the level of text complexity (as I identified it above) upon mastery of individual comprehension skills, while also increasing their vocabulary. This is similar to how a judo player would advance from one level to the next, for example. Of course, teachers will also have to deal with issues such as student motivation, attendance, the availability of appropriate materials, the number of students in a class, administrative decision-making, and etc. Those issues are beyond the scope of this article. It’s my intent to merely identify the components of solid reading instruction.

As you can clearly see, in contrast to CCSS, this follows a pattern. As demonstrated in the publication, ‘Learning About Numbers With Patterns,’ best practice maintains that children learn better when they can identify patterns. Although this study cites an example related to mathematics, its example can be applied to any discipline. Students learn better when they can see patterns, connect patterns, and build on patterns. This is a complete negation of the educational information CCSS is soliciting to the public.

Gerri K. Songer of the Illinois Township High School, District 214, conducted a Lexile analysis of the PARCC assessment and what she found was very alarming. The reading levels embedded in the assessment are absurdly high. Many young people will fail the PARCC test because it is developmentally inappropriate for high school students.

What exactly is the point of writing a test at a level that large numbers of students are guaranteed to fail? What will be the consequences for their teachers, who will be rated ineffective based on a test that is not written for high school students? As Songer writes: “Efforts can be made by educators to raise the level of reading comprehension, yet there is not much teachers can do to change the natural development of the human brain.” If she is right in her analysis, then PARCC is not only developmentally inappropriate but is designed to fail large numbers of students who will not be able to graduate, to go to college, or to enter a career.

PARCC: A Bar Set Too High
By: Gerri K. Songer, Education Chair – Illinois Township High School District 214
The current state of education is a multi-faceted issue that tends to initiate accusations of blame rather than the generation of solutions. With the rollout of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), I find myself pondering over which category applies to education legislation. For years, the ACT has been the standardized assessment measure used in Illinois. There is much criticism regarding its validity, its effect on college entrance opportunities for students, and more recently, its effect on teacher evaluation. Many students are not able to meet the criteria established by College Readiness Standards for a variety of different reasons. This ‘presumed’ underachievement has resulted in teachers becoming the target for public animosity. I assert that the problem warrants a solution that first begins by examining the assessment.
According to GAINS Education Group, the average Lexile score, a measure used to evaluate text complexity, of text used in the ACT assessment is 1140L, which means students must read at an independent reading level of 1240L in order to comprehend the majority of text utilized in the assessment. If students cannot comprehend the text, then they cannot possibly respond with accuracy even if they are capable of demonstrating the skill being assessed. This would be the equivalent of taking a test in a foreign language. Today, there is no mandatory Lexile testing performed in schools across the country, but based on 23 years of experience working with high school students, I contend that it is very likely many students, particularly those in less affluent areas, do not read at 1240L.
If this is the case with ACT, then what is the average Lexile used by PARCC? After spending much time trying to find an answer to no avail, I analyzed the text of the ELA/Literacy sample items available on the PARCC website.
What I found was that these samples ranged in Lexile from 730-2140L. The sample passages were written at the following Lexiles: 11130L, 1220L, 1370L. To independently read the most complex of these passages, students will need to read at 1470L by April of their junior year.
The following is a list of some of the sample items analyzed:
Passage 1 Abigail Smith Adams 1744-1818_1220L (Ind Rdg 1320L)
Passage 2 Abigail Adams Braintree March 31,1776_1130L (Ind Rdg 1230L)
Passage 3 John Adams July 03, 1776_1370L (Ind Rdg 1470L)
Sample Item #1—Part A_1020L (Ind Rdg 1120L)
Sample Item #1—Part B_1540L (Ind Rdg 1640L)
Sample Item #2—Part A_730L (Ind Rdg 830L)
Sample Item #2—Part B_1920L (Ind Rdg 2020L)
Sample Item #3—Part A_2140L (Ind Rdg 2240L)
Sample Item #3—Part B_1070L (Ind Rdg 1170L)
A Lexile analyzer is available at to confirm these findings.
The Green Reading Framework provides a chart that shows what this means in terms of instruction.
The framework utilizes three sequences of instruction based on high school entrance reading levels. Please note that in Sequence 2 (Average), to score between 28-32 pts.(CRS), students need to read at an independent reading level of 1275L, yet students following the Common Core sequence would only be reading between 970-1120L. This would in no way be appropriate if the average Lexile used on the PARCC assessment far exceeds this score band with an independent reading level of 1470L.
I also have concerns regarding the developmental appropriateness of the PARCC assessment. The frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed in human beings until after age twenty. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that is concerned with reasoning, planning, parts of speech and movement (motor cortex), emotions, and problem-solving. I contend that many students are not yet developmentally able to meet the cognitive requirements necessary to perform complex, multi-step tasks at the level of sophistication in text such as that inherent in the sample items produced by PARCC. I am not at all surprised that the first round of PARCC assessment results show a significant drop in student achievement. Efforts can be made by educators to raise the level of reading comprehension, yet there is not much teachers can do to change the natural development of the human brain.
Steve Cordogan, Director of Research and Evaluation at Township High School District 214 in Illinois, feels, “There are good uses for standardized testing that would provide better validity.” For example, the ACT does not provide valid results since there are not enough questions to validate the scores generated. What can really be inferred from two points growth? He explained that this could simply mean a student answered a couple more questions correctly. The only portions of the ACT assessment that do produce “somewhat” valid results are the math and English sections. Yet, he feels that PARCC may not necessarily be the answer either since it could be testing at a level that is unrealistic for students.
Career readiness information from MetaMetrix shows the following:
Federal Tax Form 1260L
Aetna Health Care Discount Form 1360L
GM Protection Plan 1150L
Medical Insurance Benefit Package 1280L
Application for Student Loan 1270L
CD-DVD Player Instructions 1080L
Installing Child Safety Seat 1170L
Microsoft Windows User Manual 1150L
Drivers’ Manual 1220L
Labor 1000L
Service 1050L
Construction 1080L
Craftsman 1100L
Clerk 1110L
Foreman 1200L
Secretary 1250L
Sales 1270L
Supervisor 1270L
Nurse 1310L
Executive 1320L
Teacher 1340L
Accountant 1400L
Scientist 1450L
Education (11–12) 1130L
Work 1260L
Community College 1295L
University 1395L
Unless the majority of our students plan to become scientists immediately upon graduation, there is no career-related reason to support a target reading comprehension level of 1470L such as that needed to comprehend the sample passages available on the PARCC website. The sample questions would require an independent reading level as high as 2240L.
Also, note that complex text is used when companies prefer that citizens do not receive money in which they may be entitled (Aetna Health Care Discount Form 1360L), and more simplistic text is used when companies want information to be accessible to their patrons (CD-DVD Player Instructions 1080L, Installing Child Safety Seat 1170L). Therefore, it may be more socially responsible to teach students how to effectively and clearly articulate information using a vocabulary that is accessible to the vast majority of the public. Isn’t that what newspapers do?
I question if intelligence can truly be measured by how well students can weed through detailed and complex information. Wouldn’t students actually demonstrate a greater level of intellect if they could speak, read, and write in an organized manner using a vocabulary with which most people in the country can understand? Could PARCC assessment actually turn out to be the instrument used to manifest the resurrection of Babylon – a land of confusion?
In addition to my concern for students, I am very troubled regarding the potential effects this assessment may have on educators. The current teacher evaluation mandated by the state is extremely subjective. I went through the training myself, and I would find it highly unlikely that a cross-section of evaluators could possibly produce the same evaluation results.
In 2016, standardized assessment is to be included as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Teacher evaluation, when combined with PARCC assessment results, equals a potentially grim future for educators. Teachers with over 6-8 years of experience will encounter a significant financial loss if their employment is terminated. Standard practice is that credit be given to new hires for only 6-8 years experience, depending upon the district. Teachers with over 20 years of experience will find that not only their salaries will be devastated (I estimated over a $200,000 loss by the time they could retire from the district in which I am currently employed), but their pension (which may likely already be negatively impacted by current legislation) will also be reduced by over one third of what they had planned for, with very little time to make additional provision. Finally, there are currently no severance packages offered in the public sector, so teachers could find themselves in an extremely bad place within a very short span of time.
If legislators are truly interested in finding solutions for educators, my recommendation is that they more closely examine the problem and respectfully include educators in the decision-making process. Many minds united can solve enormous challenges. Yet, what I see brewing in legislation pertaining to public education today is tragically disturbing. What I am witnessing is top down authoritarian, or Machiavellian, rule through ill-planned, uninformed legislative-making bodies that are looking through the magnifying lens of meticulous detail while missing the big picture that is glaring directly at them. What made Lincoln one of the most successful leaders in the history of this country is that he made an effort to spend time out on the front line. He talked with those of lowest rank and made sure they had what they needed to be successful. He built his people up, rather than tore them down. He offered them strength, rather than left them weak.

Fairtest is the leading organization fighting the misuse and abuse of standardized testing. If you read these stories, you will get a strong sense that the tide is turning against test mania, a disease that afflicts politicians, some economists, and certain think tanks.

“The U.S. Senate has joined the House of Representatives in responding to growing, grassroots pressure by voting to overhaul “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The bills passed by both the Senate and House reflect widespread rejection of failed top-down, test-and-punish strategies as well as the “NCLB on steroids” waiver regime dictated by Arne Duncan. While neither version is close to perfect from an assessment reform perspective, each makes significant progress by rolling back federally mandated high-stakes, eliminating requirements to evaluate educators based on student test scores, and recognizing opt-out rights. FairTest and its allies will closely monitor the conference committee working on compromise language to make sure the gains remain in the final bill sent to President Obama — the alternative is to keep the yoke of NCLB-and-waivers in place for at least two more years, if not much longer. Meanwhile, organizers in many states are keeping the spotlight on the problems of test overuse and misuse, modeling better practices and winning additional policy victories.”

Remember that back issues of these weekly updates are archived at:

National End High-Stakes Testing to Help Fix Public Education: Key Civil Rights Leader

National U.S. Senate Rejects Proposal to Give Federal Government More Say in Identifying “Failing” Schools

National Both House and Senate NCLB Overhaul Bills Allow for Penalty-Free Test Opt Out

National “Race to the Top:” Lofty Promises and Top-Down Regulation Brought Few Good Changes to America’s Schools

California Exit Exam on Way Out

Colorado Two Small Districts Set Opt Out Records

Connecticut Opposition Coalesces Against Smarter Balanced Tests

Delaware Governor Vetoes Opt-Out Bill; State PTA Pushed for Override Vote

Georgia More than 10,000 Young People Who Did Not Pass Grad. Test Recently Received Diplomas

Hawaii Teachers Fight Evaluations Based on Student Test Scores

Illinois Why Common Core Tests Are Harmful to Students

Iowa Third-Grade Promotion Test Pushes Reading Down Into Kindergarten

Louisiana Fight to Make Charter School Disclose What Test It Uses for Kindergarten Entry

Minnesota Test Cuts Came After Thorough Debate

Missouri Exam Scores Don’t Tell Full Story of Teacher Preparedness

Ohio Time Allocated to New State Tests Cut in Half

Nevada After Testing System Breakdown, State to Hire New Assessment Vendor

New Hampshire Schools Can Replace Smarter Balanced Tests with ACT or SAT

New Jersey Be Wary of New State Teacher Ratings

New Mexico Court Rejects Suit Seeking to Strip Pearson’s Common Core Testing Contract

New York High School Models Authentic Assessment
New York Opt Out Movement Plans to Ratchet Up Actions Against Standardized Exam Overkill
New York Pending NCLB Overhaul Offers Hope to Reduce State’s Testing Obsession

North Carolina State’s Largest District Cuts Back Local Test Mandates
North Carolina Cautions About Test-Score-Based Teacher Pay

Oregon Students Can Meet Graduation Requirement with Work Samples in Their Home Language

Pennsylvania Questions Mount About Using Volatile Test Results to Evaluate Teachers and Schools
Pennsylvania Teachers to School Board: Standardized Testing is Harming Students

Rhode Island What Tests Like PARCC Do Not Measure

Tennessee Teachers School Governor on Testing and Evaluations
Tennessee Local School Board to Take Up Opt Out Resolution

Texas New Test Leading Fewer to Get GEDs

Washington State Testing Revolt Pushes State Into Uncharted Waters
Washington Over-Testing is a Flawed Strategy

“How Many Tests Can a Child Withstand?” — with apologies to Bob Dylan

The Beatings in Education Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468