PARCC is the LBJ of Standardized Testing

And it was very evident that this was going to be a problem from a political perspective.” –quoted participant on a Smarter Balance cut score/standards-setting panel

Education Week has a story, grade-by-grade infographic included, on the touchy, important and oh-so-political process of deciding how hard to “grade” the new standardized tests.  As you know, there are two “consortia,” (PARCC and Smarter Balance).  As it turns out, politically, the two are going about it differently.

Smarter Balance, as the story covers, is coming out with the “cut scores” before administering, based in large part on how kids did on the field tests given last Spring.  “Our” consortium, PARCC, is employing the Lyndon Baines Johnson method.  What do I mean by that?

One of the greatest time sinks ever has been my decision to spend countless hours reading the countless pages in Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of LBJ.  A significant portion of the world has their fingers crossed that Mr. Caro will be around long enough to finish the story.  He, like many of us who write stuff, prefers to use 100,000 words where 100 would do.

Anyway, in highly snipped form, here’s a recap of the 1948 Senatorial election that propelled LBJ to the chamber from which he would wield incredible and, at times, insanely unethical influence for a decade or so before becoming VP and then President.  To sum up a summing up, LBJ was losing a close election in 1948, but he was like PARCC.  He waited until after the election, made a few calls down to far South Texas, told ’em a number of votes and, voila! (an expression I admit they don’t use much in far South Texas), LBJ had enough votes.

Smart thinking PARCC.  Smart thinking.  If you want exactly 48% of the kids to pass…you got it.  Feeling magnanimous and getting some flack about making things too hard…sure, no problem, just make it 55%.  Smart.



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